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ASPIRATIONS FOR 2018

Events of national significance tend to linger on in our combined memories for some time, even then 2018 ushered in hopes of erasing some of our concerns and disappointments.  The indications of the opportunities that have emerged despite the challenges are still imperceptible, even then 2018 promises to be a year of hope and resurgence viz, (1) most likely witnessing the third consecutive general elections in Pakistan, possibly delayed by a few months (2) Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification making the political playing field more competitive, changing the political landscape for the better and (3) the superior judiciary asserting itself  in no uncertain terms, well on its way to being what it should be, one of the strongest pillars of the State.

Besides being an economic game-changer for Pakistan, the significant geo-political changes taking place in the region because of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is best symbolized by the growing Russian-China-Pakistan cooperation. China-Pakistan military exercises are routine, but the ground-breaking Russian-Pakistan ones are certainly not.    One should not expect Russia to abandon its deep rooted long-term relationship with India but certainly its blind support is a thing of the past.

Our relationship with China has deepened because of China’s strategic compulsions. On national security issues the civil and military leadership are on the same page, not only in dealing with India and Afghanistan but with the world powers, the US and Russia and in the immediate region. The measured joint civil-military response to US President Donald Trump’s recent tweet is a case in point, the operative word being KYC (keep your cool). We cannot be held hostage by the academic input of a few powerful intellectual elite, among them a handful of arrogant former diplomats, who pontificate about foreign policy “shortcomings” while feeding the counsel of our fears (to paraphrase Field Marshal Slim) from his book “Unofficial History”,  whereas on the other hand our recent foreign policy successes have shown that to quote another Slim adage, “it pays to be bold”.

Without effective participation of citizens in the affairs of even their own community, our present democracy is a sham.  A stable democratic system can only be possible with participation of ordinary citizens in the decision-making process. Without electoral reforms providing a level playing field we will never be able to fight poverty, feudalism and extremism. Moreover, indirect elections are a farce, the Senate is a shameful symbol of our sham democracy. Can those who are not elected by adult franchise be truly representative of the federating units?

The nexus of corruption with organised crime and terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon.   Judicious use of technology must counter “terror financing” from the siphoning off of monies donated to charities. While certainly admiring those making legitimate profits from commerce and industry, we must target proceeds illegally acquired through corruption, fraud and deceit. This includes manipulation of the Stock Exchange by unscrupulous brokers. Monies fuelling terrorism must answer for the blood of innocents and cannot be allowed to be legitimised by using the Zardari-sponsored bogey of “provincial autonomy!” Accountability requires all the assets of those in our elite society awash with illegal gains to be confiscated.

Arbitrary or wide discretionary powers in practice today makes the rule of law impossible to prevail in Pakistan. Equality before the law or the equal subjection of all classes to the ordinary laws of the land must be duly administered by the courts. Justice can easily be subverted by influence and/or money presently.  The rich and powerful must be held accountable, the accused must not be allowed to hide behind technicalities exploited by clever lawyers while the poor who cannot afford them suffer.  Judicial prevarication must stop, the old saying ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ holds true. To be truly credible accountability must not be selective and should be applicable to all, the corrupt among the judiciary and the Armed Forces  included.  My Jan 1, 2009 quote on corruption is still applicable today,  “Corruption and accountability remain a major challenge. Even-handed accountability without exception must strike at the roots of corruption without bias. The National Accountability Board (NAB’s) anti-corruption mechanism not compromised by selective application for personal and/or political purpose. Justice must be made simple and inexpensive.  What is the reason for extremism except lack of fair play in justice and frustration at seeing the corrupt prospering?” Can we by default accept that the corruption codified by “Pakistan-First” Musharraf’s infamous National Reconciliation Order (NRO), force-multiplied subsequently by Zardari’s corruption-ridden Presidential years, be given legal cover?” unquote.

To quote my article “Wishes for 2017” of Dec 30, 2016, “The calibre and integrity of the incoming Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Mian Saqib Nisar, does not merit the insidious slander campaign on the social media. Given his track record, one knows that the incoming Chief Justice will not be selective in being deaf, dumb and blind,” unquote.  One reiterates with great satisfaction and pride what I wrote then, “Mian Saqib Nisar is literally Pakistan’s last hope, he must remain true to his integrity and character and to his calling”. Similarly with the calm and effective presence of Justice Javed Iqbal as Chairman NAB, those testing his patience and commitment to eradicate corruption may find it hard to survive.  In fact the present conduct and commitment of the entire superior judiciary is something to be proud of.

The Army is doing exemplary work fighting terrorism and extremism, firmness in the selection and the maintenance of its aim requires the military to wipe out not only the vestiges of militancy in both political and religious camouflage but all the extraneous forces and factors subscribing to it.   The military momentum directed against terrorism in the Pakistani heartland, particularly in southern and central Punjab, must continue. The sacrifices of our soldiers in the most successful counter-insurgency at the present time has made Pakistan today a much safer place. On a different analogy, we must take decisions, we vacillated too long past the fail-safe point in 1971, we cannot, to quote Richard Nixon, “debate a decision to death”.

The superior judiciary must take notice of attempts to gamble with the existence of the State by the consistent targeting of its vital institutions, particularly by politicians who are well on the way of becoming convicts. The responsibility of governance is a sacred trust that no individual or entity has the right to sacrifice at the altar of personal survival and greed.   Can any individual be greater than the nation he (or she) has been given the opportunity by Divine Providence to govern?

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ELECTIONS 2018

Squabbling and endlessly bickering on issues not of any public importance, our parliamentarians may clamour passionately for early elections, yet not enough senators showed up for weeks to enable a quorum to pass an amendment to the Constitution clearing the way for delimitation of National Assembly (NA) constituencies based on the results of the recent national census till Dec 19. This removed a major hurdle for holding elections on schedule. For this very sensitive task; the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set a Nov 10 deadline estimating at least five months being needed to use the provisional census data to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies.

Theoretically elections could be held on time in July/Aug 2018 provided a number of challenges are overcome. Will the ECP be able to prepare credible electoral rolls on time considering that if re-checking of the census data  conducted in some constituencies is required to determine the accuracy (or otherwise)? Incorrect or flawed data for any reason, would require additional work. The drawing up of new constituencies is already the cause of resentment and anger among political parties, it stands to reason that the process must be transparent and above board without controversy. This will allow the electoral process to go on smoothly and create minimum room for agitation and protest before, during and after the election.

The ongoing controversy relating to former Prime Minister (PM) Mian Nawaz Sharif and his immediate family members adds to the problems, this will multiply near their certain conviction. Ever since the Supreme Court (SC)  disqualified the former PM and ordered a criminal investigation into his immediate family members over corruption allegations in July this year, he has been crying foul and decrying judges of the superior judiciary, even going to the extent recently of claiming “they have been hand in glove with dictators over the last 70 years”. Not once has he answered the corruption charges against him.  He conveniently forgets that not only was he sponsored into politics by a military dictator but it was the Establishment that brought him into the PM’s seat in the first place.   Loyalists of his political party and his family members used abusive language and openly threatened the judges with dire consequences while passing snide innuendos against the Army.

There is method behind the madness of hurling invectives against the institutions of the state, the former PM wants the delaying of his case for as long as may be possible. His appearances before the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) court  have been spread out by his choosing, having to travel to London on a very frequent basis. His latest ploy has been to announce the organization of a movement which he ironically calls the ‘restoration of justice in Pakistan’, we seem to have short memories about Nov 1997 when PML-N leaders and workers stormed the SC building forcing the then Chief Justice Syed Sajjad Ali Shah to adjourn the contempt of court case against the then PM Nawaz Sharif.  How can those who physically attack the highest form of justice in the land govern the state?  Having these corruption cases linger on, on one pretext or the other, will adversely effect the upcoming elections.

The 2017 Census, the first since 1998, has changed the entire dynamics of equation in the urban and rural spheres, including job quotas, it showed the population surging to a staggering 207.8 million, an increase of 75.4 million people in 19 years with the majority of people, 52.9% living in the Punjab. Pakistan’s predominant majority – 132.189 million or 63.6% – still lives in rural areas whereas Sindh came out as the most urbanised province having 52.02% population in urban areas.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and  the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) in Sindh have made the 2017 census controversial by claiming that their province had been undercounted. The govt agreed to a third-party audit of selected blocs equivalent to 1% the population, this was rejected by the MQM-P who demanded 5% census blocs be audited. The Council of Common Interests (CCI) had conceded to these reservations but as the exercise will now have to cover more constituencies requiring additional time and effort, it remains pending. Independent observers are of the view that six to seven months would be needed to conduct an audit for 5% blocs. On its part the govt believes this can be done in three months.

A major problem lies in the manner and timings of the Senate elections are held. The term of Senate members is for six years, since the 2003 elections half of the 104 seats i.e. 52 seats are held after every three years as the process of Senate elections is designed in such a manner that the term of half of the members expires after every three years. The next elections are scheduled to be held in March 2018.   If the assembles were to elect the members of the Senate now, it will not be truly representative of the electorate because of the great changes in the census results, these elections will not depict the actual situation on ground. The first-past-the-post system ensures that a powerful minority will always come to power, this is the case in more than 80% of the seats in our National and Provincial assemblies. With majority of the people becoming frustrated about ever obtaining power on our pattern of election which favours a powerful minority, less and less people tend to go out to vote. This abstention constitutes a default by which a powerful minority is eventually transformed into a majority. With 15 million votes, less than ie 7.5% of the population, Mian Nawaz Sharif claims to represent the entire electorate.  Consider then what will the new Senate represent. Our electoral process must reflect true democracy, the present system is nothing but a sham and a hypocrisy. The numbers involved and the clear choice between two candidates in a “run-off vote” makes an election difficult to rig and manipulate.

Instead of making the elections controversial and adding to our problems, elections should be deferred with consultations among all stakeholders, this delay will also allow elongation of the Senate’s life for a short time, maybe six time months. The delay is required under the doctrine of necessity of good governance, this is not a theoretical premise but a pragmatic proposition to ward off the possibility of severe problems cropping up. Whatever we do must target of ending of the present state of uncertainty.

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SHORT-CIRCUITING INVESTMENT

During the 1980s the shortfall between electricity generated and consumers’ demand in Karachi widened to unmanageable proportions. Rampant over-staffing compounded by excessive non-core workers, a demoralized workforce and misaligned management objectives all combined to create hurdles in the utility company’s functioning.

For a short time KESC was stabilized by the senior management brought in by the Army after Gen Musharraf’s 1999 coup. Detachments deployed in the field uncovering illegal connections, recovering unpaid bills, etc were rightly given cash incentives. However why (and who) in the senior management were given a major part of these “incentives” and why was no record about these cash transactions kept? Given this huge cash windfall, did they pay taxes on it? With the management thus dipping their hands into the revenues, KESC went back to the bad old days.

Things became ugly with privatisation in 2005 when politically-connected labour unions with vested interests who were a law unto themselves, protested violently and attacked senior staffers while vandalizing KESC property. Handing over operations to a third party by the new owners not being management-oriented themselves proved disastrous. With the system overloaded, the infra-structure started to crumble, pilferages multiplied and revenues dried up, mainly because of incompetent, inefficient and corrupt management only interested in lining their own pockets through all-pervasive corrupt practices.

By 2009 Karachi was close to crossing the fail-safe line into chaos and anarchy with continuous and unannounced rampant load-shedding. Acute law and order problems and no-go areas within the city hampered recovery efforts in many areas, the combined distribution loss was exceedingly high. Rising population in the mega city and mushroom growth with multistory buildings made meeting of the consumer demand uncertain.  However a Dubai-based multi-national took a calculated risk that the KESC “black hole” could be turned around into a profit center. Subsequently the new owners re-named KESC K-Electric (KE).

Without the new owners taking out a single paisa in dividends or fees or charges, KE executed a landmark turnaround whereby PKR 130 billion was invested in Karachi’s power infrastructure to add over 1,000 MW of new generation capacity, reduce T&D losses by over 14%, as a result 62% of Karachi today is exempt from load-shed. Exempted from load-shedding there are signs Karachi’s huge industry sector is becoming competitive again. Instrumental in the govt attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to Pakistan, KE’s turnaround has been show-cased by the World Bank in a joint case study between the Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School.

KE’s success encouraged Shanghai Electric Power (SEP) signing a definitive agreement to acquire a stake in KE in October 2016, subject to regulatory and other govt approvals. One of the largest power generation companies in China with a total installed capacity of 9.4 GW, SEP is a subsidiary of State Power Investment Corporation of China (SPIC), a Fortune 500 company and one of China’s big five state-owned power generation groups with an overall installed capacity of 107 GW. SEP has presented a US$ 9 billion investment plan to both the regulator and the govt to resolve Karachi’s power issues and assist in economic development. The transaction has yet to be completed despite passage of 14 months due to stumbling blocks in the shape of regulatory and bureaucratic processes.

The National Electric Power Regulating Authority (NEPRA) has determined a tariff (for the next 7 years) reducing base tariff by 22.5% and also changing the tariff structure. KE contends the new tariff is unrealistic and will result in cumulative losses of over PKR 140 billion over the next 7 years – setting it back by decades. KE’s impaired ability to invest in the power infrastructure will affect consumers, with: (1) escalation of load shedding–impacting on the law and order situation as well as national security given Karachi status as Pakistan’s only port city and (2) drastic reduction in quality, reliability and availability of power supply. As a long-term strategic investor SEP has potential to change the outlook of Pakistan’s power sector. Abandoning of the potential investment to SEP will also severely impact investor confidence and future FDI in Pakistan. A review of the MYT must be undertaken and if viable, replaced by a performance-based tariff regime that maintains a similar level and structure as the company’s previous Multi-Year Tariff (MYT). To avoid controversy, why not an independent evaluation by an international consultant with known expertise in determining tariffs?

SEP plans to achieve operational and financial excellence is the single largest investment in Pakistan ever. NEPRA’s unflinching decision may prevent that from happening. SEP is committed to introducing technologies and equipment that will help reduce transmission and distribution losses, much like what it had done in Estonia – cutting system losses from 14% to 9% within one year. At a meeting of the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) with Prime Minister (PM) of Pakistan in Islamabad on Monday last, the role of the power utility in improving law and order situation was discussed. CPNE members voiced their concern about K-Electric’s tariff being significantly reduced which would frustrate its ability to sustain its operation or invest in power infrastructure in future.

According to CPNE Press Release, “the PM said the Govt understands the need for Investment in Power Infrastructure of Karachi and its implications on everyday life of Karachi and the economy of Pakistan. Fully aware of K-Electric’s issue he assured the group that GOP supports a right tariff regime for KE, which ensures continuity of government policies, provides incentives for performance improvement and offers reasonable return. The acquisition by SEP, the largest investment by a single company in Pakistan, will encourage foreign investment in the country and will be a game changer in the power sector of the country. A strategic power utility operator SEP will benefit Karachi by an improved and reliable supply of power. He also highlighted that GOP owns 24% share in KE and hence has vested interest in KE as a shareholder. Above all, smooth and reliable supply of power is of utmost importance to GOP”, unquote.

Those dealing with national security know very well the old concept of defending one’s frontiers only is now no more valid, national security must include countering the country’s enemies waging an undeclared “hybrid” war attempting to subvert the ideology, destroy socio-economic facilities, derail the economy, compromise the media and media personnel, foment the attacking of institutions like the judiciary and the Army that form the pillars of the State, etc, etc. Why indeed the short-circuiting of investment that is badly needed for preventing Karachi descending again into anarchy by the deliberate fudging of figures, and by whom?

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DE-COLONIZING EDUCATION IN PAKISTAN

Established initially as institutions of higher studies, Madrasahs taught law, Islamic sciences and philosophy. Prior to the arrival of British, both religious and secular education was taken care of for Hindus and Muslims by their respective religious institutions together. Madrasahs taught Quran together with Tafsir Mantiq (logic), Kalam (theology) and Hikmah (philosophy). In addition, mathematics, astronomy and medicine were taught in some Madrasahs. Hindus studied their religion together with secular subjects in their Maktabs and Panthshalas.

The British East India Company (EIC) gave attention to education in India only after the Charter issued to them by King George III in 1813 obligated them to spend money on education. EIC’s early representatives tried to keep indigenous education based on Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit intact but Baron Thomas Babington Macaulay’s educational “Macaulay Minute” in 1835 reversed the situation. Looking with disrespect at traditional education he supported replacing Persian with English Language. Introducing secular western education, “Macaulism” separated it from religious education in India. Without knowledge of either Arabic, Persian or Sanskrit he instituted an education policy in support of the  British  Raj  which denigrated  Indian  languages  and  knowledge,  established  the hegemonic influence of English as medium of colonial ‘instruction’ (not education) and used limitation  of  resources as a ploy  to  “form  a  class who  may  be  interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern – a class of persons Indian in blood and colour,  but  English  in  tastes, in  opinions,  in  morals  and  in  intellect  …”

Regarded as standing in the way of knowledge and progress, religion was relegated to religious institutions only. Today’s Madrasah (plural “madaris”) is an Islamic religious school (seminary) where students, as young as nine or ten, and even younger, go to get religious education, to be schooled first in reading and then in religious studies. Initially part of a mosque, Madrasahs only later became separate institutions. While educational values like the infusion of a spirit of piety and righteousness, the formation of high character, development of personality, the inculcation of civic and social values, promotion of social efficiency and the preservation and spread of national culture that traditionally were taught based on the tenets of religion vanished from education ever since it has been reduced to ‘instruction’ only.

The Ottoman Empire’s reform period “Tanzimat” created a modern school system introducing modern ideals instead of Islam that was the foundation for earlier school systems. The General Education Regulation of Sept 1, 1869 covering primary/secondary education, recruitment of teachers, etc ensured the entire Empire was educated. Primary education was made mandatory and the network was systematized with a four-year primary (sıbyan/ibtidaiye) school, a four-year upper primary (rüşdiye) school, a three-year lower secondary school (idadiye), a three-year higher secondary (sultaniye) school, and then the high schools (aliyye). The Sibyan schools taught the alphabet, writing skills, calligraphy, arithmetic, Ottoman history, etc. The admission age was three years and after four years of schooling a final exam had to be taken. Funded by wealthy individuals and existing in every town, city and village. Some aspects of the Sibyan schools are found even today (1) co-education (2) food and clothing were provided with financial assistance to poor families (3) “Amen Parade” known to a ceremony of starting school was unprecedented at that time (4) when intelligent children were maneuvered towards education of music and reciting the Quran, to the sciences, and to more reputed educational institutions (5) children could choose the role of their adult life and (6) culture of social tolerance was encouraged among children of ethnic and religious sects or groups, etc. Next came “Rusdiye” level with advanced subjects such as bookkeeping, advanced geometry and memorizing all scriptures of the Qur’an.  At the “Idadiye” level students specialized in advanced humanities or advanced sciences followed by the “Sultaniye” school (colleges modelled on the French Lycees) where students learnt humanities or science. The last tier was the high school (Mekâtib-i Ȃliyye).

Madrasahs in Pakistan are mostly registered with the government as charitable corporate bodies with acquired tax exemption. The majority among the Sunnis are Barelvis, moderates seeking to be inclusive of local rituals and customs. The seminaries run by the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) are non-sectarian but politically very active.  In the context of extremism, the remaining two streams of Madrasahs are considered most important. The Deobandi movement from the Indian town of Deoband (near New Delhi) school of thought has long sought to purify Islam by rejecting “un-Islamic” accretions to the faith and returning to the models established in the Holy Quran. The Ahle-Hadith (followers of the way of the Prophet) have a similar emphasis “purifying” the faith as the Deobandis.

An irresistible option for the impoverished, where their children also get free boarding and food when compared to crumbling or non-existent government-funded secular schools and an opportunity to gain literacy and employment. With no thought was given to the education needed to create truly dedicated citizens, the mess we are facing now is a result of this negligence. Our Public Service Commission demands the aspirants to study British history in ridiculous detail thus perpetuating Macaulay’s spirit. Much lip-service has been given to reforming Madrasahs without success. The sheer magnitude of an enormous increase can be seen by this simple statistic: only 7,000 Pakistani children attended Madrasahs 30 years ago as compared to closer to 2 million today even by conservative estimates.

Violent interpretations of Islamic texts and militant pamphlets or magazines advocating violent jihad against other religious sects form part of the curricula in certain Madrasahs, especially those openly aligned with particular militant groups. A study in 2009 found about 18% of the Madrasahs were affiliated with sectarian outfits Sipah-e-Sahaba, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, etc. Research finds a disturbing connection between Pakistani Madrasahs and Islamic extremism including sectarian violence. However while vast majority of Madrasahs, almost 80% do not subscribe to this virulent hate but may be far from rendering adequate education, it is wrong to condemn most Madrasahs outright as supporting Jehadis.

Concerned that only religious education is being imparted to the students at the Madrasahs, the Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa at a recent seminar in Quetta called for widening the scope of their curriculum  to enable the students to play a more positive and productive role in society. Whether Islamic and/or secular we must revise the concept where the role of character building of the student in education is neglected. What Pakistan really meets is ensuring education across the board that in addition to modern knowledge makes the student a better human being.

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STOKING RELIGIOUS SENTIMENTS

The Indian War of Independence (or the 1857 Indian Mutiny as the British call it) did not start as a “War of Independence” by the Indians against their British masters. British East India’s war machine was primarily composed of Indian native troops officered by the British, pure British-manned regiments were a handful in numbers compared to the vast Indian rank and file. The many causes for the war i.e. political, social, economical, military and religious notwithstanding, all that was needed was a spark. This was provided when Indian Hindu sepoys refused to use rifle cartridges suspected to be greased with cow fat that had to be bitten off using their teeth, muslims similarly were led to believe that pig fat was being used. This was unacceptable to the religious feelings of both the Hindus and Muslims respectively.

Forced to use these greased cartridges, a Hindu sepoy killed two British army officers at Barrackpore on Jan 23, 1857, he was arrested and hanged in April. The news spread like wildfire, affecting all the regiments. Subsequently in May 1857 more than 80 Indian soldiers stationed at Meerut refused to bite the greased cartridges, thereafter entire regiments mutinied or were disarmed by the British. Anyone with a grouse against the British joined the revolt, even those without a grouse but only intent on pillage and rape also did so.   New leaders appeared everywhere, some with pure motives and some without. The mutiny remained limited to only a few cities such as Meerut, Delhi, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bihar, Jhansi, etc. Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar at 82 years and in poor health, whose authority did not extend much beyond Delhi and an apology for the great Mughal dynasty he was the heir of, became a rather reluctant symbol of freedom for the mutineers. He remained a mere figurehead.

Movements starting with religious connotations tend to end up far removed from whatever aims and objectives were originally envisaged.  In today’s environment of modern technological advances religious activism can be manipulated by motivated interest with considerable ease. Charlatan-ism among the leadership cadre has been endemic through the ages. Pure unadulterated motives are easily overwhelmed by those who do not share the same altruism. When Muslim protests started in sincere interest against the publishing of the Danish outrage in late 2005, mindless motivated interests provoked it a few months later into becoming an outrage by itself that spawned violence leaving nearly 250 dead and 800 or so wounded.

Starting on Nov 8 the ‘Dharna’ in Faizabad was called by an hitherto little-known political party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan (TLYRAP). Led by little known cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi it lasted 21 days and heaped untold suffering on the people of the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The situation exacerbated by the incompetence of the govt and its machinery, the 2000 or so protesters demanded that Law Minister Zahid Hamid resign for allegedly amending the “Khatm-e-Nabuwwat” clause in the Election Act 2017. Sparing only the Army, Rizvi used abusive language unbecoming of a religious leader, spewing extreme vitriol against every institution, the government, the judiciary, the civil administration and the media.

The operation launched on the morning of Nov 25 was a ham-handed and amateurish attempt that was bound to fail. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal distanced himself saying the decision was made by the local administration in light of the Islamabad High Court (HC) orders. With reports of casualties coming in, the operation was stopped. Six precious lives were lost and hundreds were injured. With this action protest dharnas also started in Karachi, Lahore and a number of other places. The general consensus among commentators was that the PML-N govt’s handling of the affair was not only unsatisfactory but disastrous. Untold damage was done to property all over the country and quite a quantum of livelihood was affected by a minority of extremists that no one had really heard of six months earlier. Becoming a direct threat to the writ of the state the protestors demonstrated how the government, despite all its authority and the means to impose then, remained helpless against a unified front posed by a hard-core religious group. That in the end proved to be pivotal to the resolution of the matter. The protest was called off on Nov 27 only after the resignation of the Law Minister but the perception that emerged was one that actually looked like an abject surrender.

Even if the perception was that the writ of the State was being abdicated, the govt’s first course of action should have been to try and defuse the situation. Once the situation came under control, the next step would have been to collate the intelligence to address what the protestors really wanted, who their leaders are, their background, their actual motives, who were supporting them, etc, etc.  The temptation to use force is a two-edged sword, once force is used casualties will occur and protestors will react strongly, and if the protest is spread across the country as was the case with the Faizabad protest, such reaction will be swift and violent. This can get out of hand very quickly as the State uses more force to quell the uprising, more people will be killed, it could well spiral into an “Arab Spring”  type civil war-like situation.

Through the three weeks a constant supply of food, warm clothing, blankets, water, tea, etc, etc. kept the protestors going. The efficiency of this logistics aside, how could a few hundred protesters operating like de facto police set-up checkpoints so easily in the capital so that they could cripple the city? Management expertise notwithstanding these expenses would surely have run into tens of millions. Surely not from the business community of the twin cities, as was suggested by a private TV channel! So what was the source of the funding and motive thereof? It is extremely curious how only during the PML-N tenure that protests completely shutting down the capital have become an almost regular feature.

Having survived one crisis because of religious connotation we are now faced with another, that of Jerusalem being recognized as Israel’s capital by the US.  Though not mentioned specifically by name Jerusalem has been referred to many times in the Quran. You can take an educated bet that religious extremists will try to exploit the situation. The handling of this stoking of religious sentiment with mass appeal among the population have both domestic and international ramifications. This particular crisis must not be allowed to be blown out proportion.

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FORGING A POSITIVE ALLIANCE

It was a unique privilege (for  many different reasons) to be  invited alongwith a handful of senior media colleagues to attend the inaugural meeting of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) under the theme “Allied Against Terrorism” on Nov 26 in Riyadh. With the Ministers of Defence,  Senior military officers of 41 Islamic and Muslim-majority countries Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (known as MBS) pledged in his inaugural address not to allow extremists “tarnish the name of our beautiful religion” and vowing to “pursue terrorists until they are wiped from the face of the earth”. The Acting Secretary General IMCTC Lt Gen Abdulelah Al Saleh described the Coalition as providing an open platform for member countries willing to exchange best practices and coordinate their counter-terrorism efforts. Representing Pakistan in the IMCTC meeting, Khurram Dastgir Khan, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Defence was quite eloquent highlighting Pakistan’s successful counter-terror operations and appreciating the Saudis for their leadership efforts in building partnerships. The pan-Islamic unified front conveyed a very strong message to the forces of terror.

The formation of a (then) 34-member ‘Islamic Military Alliance’ with a joint operations center in Riyadh was announced in December 2015 by MBS (then)  Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister, with the aim to ‘coordinate’ efforts to “protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups and organisations’’ because terrorism “should be fought by all means and collaboration should be made to eliminate it”. This generated confusion within Pakistan because the alliance having states with majority Sunni muslim populations and with Iran, Iraq, and Syria being excluded, it gave the perception of it being a ‘Sunni’ coalition. Pakistan decision not to send any “boots on the ground” to Yemen countered the perception of Pakistan being engaged in an anti-Shia agenda. However, given the sensitivities of the very special nature of the Saudi-Pakistan relations and our good relations with Iran, this remains a very sensitive subject.  We cannot ever be part of an anti-Iran coalition, for its part Iran also has to exercise restraint or one gets a perception of their forging an anti-Sunni initiative.  In that case the Sunnis have a right to defend themselves!

With the Islamic State (IS), Daesh and other groups with agendas of spreading violence in almost every Muslim country, terrorism is currently being battled individually by each of the affected counties, mostly not very effectively. The IMCTC could play an extremely potent role by coordinating efforts against a common enemy by working with various countries and other international countries to support counterterrorism efforts.

Agreeing to be part of the coalition Pakistan had withheld its decision about the extent of its role till the Terms of Reference (TORs) were finalised. Our principled stand was that our troops would not take part in any military initiative aimed at any other Islamic country.  The final declaration putting the responsibility on the member states to decide themselves the extent of their participation in the coalition effectively provided Pakistan much needed space to maintain balance in its ties with Saudi Arabia and Iran, both good friends. With this ambiguity lifted, it is clear that participation of coalition states will be defined in accordance with their capabilities and resources, as well as in accordance with each country’s desire to participate in a given military operation.  The Pakistanis’ official “show of force” was very visible with the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, accompanied by the Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, taking part in the IMCTC dialogue the next day on Nov 27, 2017.  Earlier Gen Bajwa had made a very visible and much needed visit to Tehran to meet with the entire Iranian hierarchy, this visit was tremendous, it underscored our commitment to a unified muslim Ummah.

For the Pakistan invitees the highlight was the announcement by the Saudi Crown Prince of Gen (Retd) Raheel Shareef’s appointment as the Military Commander of the Alliance, a decision taken on merit and with consensus, said the Saudi Crown Prince. It was a matter of great pride that in the presence of so many distinguished generals from many countries as candidates, a Pakistani was chosen for this singular honour. In his maiden speech Gen Shareef dispelled the impression that the IMCTC was sectarian in nature, that it was directed against any country or had any ulterior designs.  Not mincing words he confidently asserted strongly that the sole objective of the alliance “is to counter terrorism” and the additional aim is to promote the moderate image of Islam. While one or two of the attending Defence Ministers did hint about a hidden agenda during their turn to speak, this clear and unambiguous message should assuage apprehensions.  Minister after minister agreed with Gen Raheel’s submission that the individual states lacked the required level of synergy and resources. The IMCTC was being geared under Gen Raheel’s command for intelligence-sharing and building the counter-terrorism capacity of its parties. The deference given to Gen Raheel Shareef’s stature and reputation by MBS and other dignitaries confirmed that he would play an important role in coordinating with international bodies to build alliances and cooperation on a global scale. All Pakistanis should be proud of the visible respect and honour given to him.

Despite Pakistan’s joining the alliance in April 2017 conditionally till the TORs was defined it clearly did give the go ahead for Gen (Retd) Raheel Shareef to head the coalition as per the Kingdom’s specific request  confirming his outstanding personal qualities and caliber as a leader and services to Pakistan as a soldier. One of the most popular of armed chiefs in recent times, Gen Raheel Shareef’s reputation soared after the army crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which led to sharp decline in violence in Pakistan in general and in Karachi specifically. Renowned as a person of great integrity and steely resolve Gen Raheel Shareef inspired confidence and loyalty in the troops.  The stature of Gen Raheel also received a boost in the aftermath of the horrendous Peshawar Army school attack and the 21st Amendment to the Constitution in 2015 allowing establishment of speedy trial military courts for terrorist offences and act threatening the security of Pakistan.  As a man of principle, Raheel Shareef was true to his word, much before his retirement date in Nov 2016, that he would not accept an extension to his tenure, such speculation being rife in Pakistan. Immensely popular with the masses, Gen Raheel Shareef’s portraits can be seen on the back of trucks, auto rickshaws and private cars, in banners and billboards on the streets of almost every big city, one sees this particularly in Karachi that once reeled under a wave terror and crime. One does not doubt that Raheel Shareef will lead the Coalition forces by personal example and ignite in them the fire of passion, commitment, service and honour  just as he did while he was COAS Pakistan Army.

Meeting a number of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, one got the distinct feeling that they were looking up to Gen Raheel Sharif to intercede with the Saudi authorities to improve the lot of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia who feel being treated as third and even fourth class citizens. They look upto the Crown Prince to deliver on his promises of equal treatment of all muslims irrespective of their race and sect.   While Raheel Sharif’ symbolizes the Pakistani soldier’s grit, determination and loyalty, one expects MBS to reciprocate the same attitude to the many hundreds of thousands Pakistani eking out a living in the Kingdom while striving hard to bring Saudi Arabia to where it is today, an potent leader of muslim  countries getting willing respect in the world. Talking to a disparate cross-section of Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia one believes will MBS live upto the great promise he exudes, not only for Saudi Arabia but for the entire muslim Ummah.

The Arab world has been trying since decades to develop effective military alliances but these have been Arab-specific rather than being for the entire muslim world. Unfortunately because of the many groupings (economic, political, etc) differing national objectives and given the nature of the threat faced and the fact that some of the members are beset with their own wars, insurgencies and endemic corruption this has not had any success. For our part we have to understand that Iran must not remain out of the Coalition, this would be a potential disaster for Pakistan as a well-integrated muslim nation. With our foes gathering strength and spreading their tentacles silently but surely, this is not the time for differences but to strive for unity. While disagreement among member states exists about which non-state actors are ‘terrorist’ organizations, these differences must be put aside and the IMCTC must be allowed to take root. Gen Raheel Sharif has a unique position to act as a catalyst to effect reconciliation in the Ummah.

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PREVENTING SLIDE INTO ANARCHY

Once known as the ‘City of Lights’ for its vibrant night life, a good part of Karachi lives in almost darkness, devoid of continuous power. This mega city’s momentum has led the nascent nation’s economy as the financial and commercial hub of Pakistan, Karachi accounting for a lion’s share of Pakistan’s revenue (some even claim 65% to 70%).

Not too long ago Karachi was held hostage to all manner of criminality of the murderous kind. Militants unleashed by political parties blatantly ran riot in both urban and rural areas, indulging in outright crime, killings, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, etc. All the three political parties PPP, MQM and ANP running the ruling coalition in Sindh were part of this version of “good governance”. Karachi would come to a virtual halt on the whims of Altaf Hussain, with MQM militants running amok, threatening the citizens openly, ambushing police patrols, using rocket launchers on govt offices and police stations and fighting pitched battles with paramilitary forces in the streets. Even though PPP kept MQM somewhat in leash, courtesy bags of money delivered to Altaf Hussain by Rahman Malik in London to feed his gambling addiction, for decades Karachi was in a state of internal siege.

Maj Gen Ijaz Chaudhry, than DG Rangers Sindh, really deserves the credit for initiating the enhanced gathering of real-time intelligence while re-organizing the Rangers to carry out targetted operations, and then starting it in 2012.  The situation started to show moves towards normalcy. With Ijaz promoted as Corps Commander Karachi he kept the momentum going, Rizwan Akhtar just got the credit. There was brief period of about 8-10 months of “no action” when Ijaz’s undeserving successor had personal “priorities” before retiring in 8-9 months, countering terrorism was not anywhere one of them.  This individual’s successor as Corps Commander, Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, not only restored the process but through the DG Rangers Maj Gen (now Lt Gen) Bilal Akbar he substantially increased the momentum.

Matters came to a head on Aug 22,2016 when MQM chief Altaf Husain’s vitriolic speech calling Pakistan “a cancer for the entire world” instigated a gameplan to defame the Rangers and by default the Army. Armed to the teeth, MQM activists took up ambush positions in and around Zainab Market, a heavily congested area, within minutes of Altaf’s speech hidden in nearby buildings, including banks because of bank officers affiliated with MQM’s Labour Wing. This was not a spontaneous reaction but method in Altaf Hussain’s.  Had the Rangers had not been delayed reaching Zainab Market because of traffic, hundreds of innocent civilians would have been deliberately murdered, would have been blamed on the Rangers, and by extension the Army. Playing the politics of dead bodies whether they were his followers or others was immaterial to Altaf Hussain as long as they fulfilled his nefarious designs.

With MQM being openly used as an aim of RAW, Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar consulted with his commanders and decided that enough was enough. MQM’s had 102 sector/unit offices in 212 different locations across the city, 100% illegally occupied and encroached upon, they were serving as centers of training, safe houses/hideouts, storage facility as and when required. Each location was occupied by hundreds of MQM cadres, trained in combat, weapons handling, urban fighting, etc, more or less like an Army unit. Headed by a Sector Incharge on whose one command hundreds of MQM activists could firm out in their localities to do bidding, they had the capacity of killing scores throughout Karachi simultaneously.  Taking permission from the COAS Gen Raheel Sharif the day after Aug 22, 2016, Naveed Mukhtar ordered the demolishing of all MQM unit/sector offices in Karachi with the tacit political and administrative support of the Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah. The real irony is that many of the area’s residents, ostensibly MQM supporters, looted the premises before the offices were bulldozed. Coupled with the physical demolition of the offices, the psychological effect put paid to the MQM’s vaunted capacity to mobilize power over Karachi at will.

Because of Naveed Mukhtar’s decisive action the MQM’s ceased to be the force it once was. Breaking up into factions each has been trying to re-enter politics and regain some significance, engaged in a strategy to remain politically alive. MQM Pakistan is desperately trying to woo the Federal govt into reopening the sealed or demolished MQM offices, potentially subjecting the city to a one-way descent into chaos again.  Naveed Mukhtar has carried this capacity for faceless ruthless purpose and efficiency into his post as DG ISI. Carrying out Qamar Bajwa’s decisive instructions, he eased the crisis at Faizabad without carrying out bloodshed to thwart the gamplan of our enemies and their agents desperately wanting to provoke a civil war.

Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) indirectly contributed to MQM’s agenda of violence, it being MQM’s cash cow. MD KESC Shahid Hamid was assassinated in April 2005 because he was undertaking action against a ‘corrupt MQM mafia in his organization’. Many MQM favourites or those related to MQM leaders, all undeserving, were appointed in KE on huge salaries, while in fact working for MQM, this further bolstered the Sector units. MQM’s vice-like hold over KESC was first questioned in 2009 when Abraaj Capital acquired a controlling stake in KE, subsequently renamed K-Electric (KE).

The injection of US$ 361 million of equity into the company by Abraaj resulted in marked improvement in KE’s performance, ultimately benefiting the consumers. The Chinese State-owned Shanghai Electric Power Company Limited (SEPCL) is now keen on purchasing KE, the deal is estimated at US$1.77 billion. Augmenting confidence in the economic indicators, SEPCL will invest US$9.5 billion towards upgrading/development of infrastructure, particularly the transmission and distribution system.

Because of an explosive mix created by ethno-political and sectarian interests, influx of terrorists, illegal weapons, drugs, etc, combined with lack of good governance, Karachi could easily cross the fail-safe line into chaos and anarchy if there is load-shedding again of the scale before Abraaj took over. Without the Chinese investment to increase the KE capacity, to end load-shedding and power outages. With its citizens thirsty and without power (no pun intended), this could lead us to power and water riots (water-pumping machines becoming inoperable). The MQM Pakistan demand for re-opening their offices and attempting to stop injection of the Chinese investment in KE is a part of the sustained hybrid warfare by India’s RAW against Pakistan. The consequences of a descent into total anarchy can only be imagined. Karachi’s future would then be quite dark.

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CORRUPTION WITHOUT BORDERS

The Nawaz Sharif episode shows that pervasive corruption has not only acquired respectability in a perverse manner in Pakistan but left to the National Assembly (NA), may even acquire legality. Political instability, poverty, unequal structure of society, unemployment, lack of accountability, weak political institutions, absence of rule of law, etc, are contributory factors causing an unequal distribution of resources, sapping of confidence among local and foreign investors, weak governance, etc. A leading expert on corruption, J.G. Lambsdorff says, “The abuse of power in order to serve private interest is widespread in Pakistan. Corruption will thrive particularly in a setting where accountable governance structures and processes are weak, very much the case in Pakistan.  For corruption to flourish certain key pre-conditions such as imperatives and incentives must exist that encourage corrupt practices, availability of opportunities for personal gains, access and control over the means of corruption with limited risks of exposure and punishment”, unquote.

Pakistan’s centralized system of bureaucracy inherited from the British but without the inherent checks and balances facilitates corruption by politicians, the military once they become comfortable in power and for themselves. The constitutional security given to civil servants having been taken away by ZA Bhutto when lateral entry was introduced in place of merit-based competitive selection, motivated promotions and postings made political interference possible. Politicians became all-powerful on this Client-Patron relationship. Tasked to serve vested interests at the cost of the national interest, the major task of “political” bureaucrats included ensuring a favourable vote count for politicians irrespective of the real voter preference. With their knowledge of rules and regulations our “politicized” bureaucrats help the incumbent rulers by changing or amending them in innovative ways to circumvent “problems”.

The regime changes of the 1950s was repeated between 1990 and 1999 when four democratic govts were either dismissed or overturned on charges of corruption and allegations of misuse of power. Despite corruption being rampant no one was punished for being corrupt in this game of musical chairs between Ms Benazir and Mian Nawaz Sharif.  With off-shore companies becoming fashionable, the leaked Panama Papers (and now Paradise Papers) exposed the illegal accounts of public officials, drug kingpins, money launderers, etc. Claimed as not illegal by some of our renowned lawyers and chartered accountants, why help the corrupt escape accountability by setting up such offshore companies/accounts at secretive locations to hide illegal wealth and avoid taxation except to collect huge fees? These “professionals” camouflage their illegality by technical rhetoric and legal jargons but like financial institutions play an integral role as fulltime accessories to the crimes of their clients.

Effective laws for anti-money laundering notwithstanding, corrupt politicians and others, criminals included, will always find loopholes in the banking legal system around the world and banks willing to handle their ill-gotten money and bribery payments in safe havens. They then set-up anonymous off-shore companies and trusts that allow them to hide their identity.  This is done without technically breaking any rules to access the global financial system with almost impunity. Failing in their due diligence they are complicit in corrupt practices in the transfer and deposit of stolen funds.  Millions have been stashed abroad with no questions, whether tax was paid at its source in Pakistan. Many expensive apartments in London are owned by known white-collar criminals comprising former dictators, bank defaulters, tax evaders, money-launderers, etc. The utter hypocrisy of the British legal system is exposed by Scotland Yard protecting Altaf Hussain to hide his connections with India by covering up the money-laundering and murders done on his express instructions.

Crooked real estate agents aid the corrupt by showing ways to invest ill-gotten wealth in land holdings, within Pakistan and abroad. According to a 2015 expose in The Daily Beast, “London, the World’s Money Laundering Capital”, “London has become the money-laundering capital of the world with billions of dollars in stolen funds illegally hidden in the city’s booming property market. A team of undercover reporters, one of whom was disguised as a corrupt Russian politician, secretly recorded some of London’s top real estate agents offering to help facilitate illicit transactions despite British laws that require the agents to report suspicious activity to the authorities. The real estate agents selling properties worth up to $25 million said they didn’t want to know the details, others offered detailed advice about how to funnel the cash through shell companies operating anonymously.” Unquote.

To keep their appointments and status the close associates of corrupt public office holders simply look the other way. Consider the Constitutional Amendment allowing a person disqualified by the Supreme Court (SC) from holding public office, the oath of allegiance of those who voted for Nawaz Sharif is not to the State but to their dependency and servitude to their Patron. Quite possible these people may not be corrupt themselves but by actively carrying out the instructions of their boss or passively condoning it they are facilitators of corruption and thus guilty as willing accessories to the crime committed by their bosses. Forgetting their past association conveniently these hypocrites spout rhetoric about high ideals and lofty principles forgetting they had turned a blind eye to the illegal activities of their superiors. Why does the Opposition refrain from making the entire proceeds of the Supreme Court (SC) judgment (and subsequent review petition) a part of the records of the NA?

The wishful perception being propagated by the PPP is that the Army is preparing Asif Zardari as an anti-dote to Nawaz Sharif. On the scale of accountability not only for corruption but for murder and mayhem, Nawaz Sharif comes out a “patron Saint” as compared to Zardari.  The convoluted logic behind this motivated story notwithstanding, no one in his right mind is about to commit “hari-kari” by and reverse the progress that the Superior Judiciary has had the courage and conviction to adopt.

Facilitating illegal activities such as money-laundering and tax evasion, many of Pakistan’s laws prevent the authorities from taking meaningful action against the culprits. Mian Nawaz Sharif’s indictment indicates a change may be in the offing but maybe it is too early for anyone to start celebrating. Calling himself an “ideology”, Nawaz Sharif is openly projecting “corruption” as the new ideology for Pakistan. When you facilitate, tolerate and/or salute corruption, this makes you not only a hypocrite but a willing accessory thereof.  Those blatantly condoning and facilitating of corruption must be taken to task or the Sharif ideology “corruption without borders” (with apologies to Médecins Sans Frontières or Doctors without Borders) will really become Pakistan’s new ideology.

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A FEUDAL ELECTORAL SYSTEM

The Magna Carta, or the “Charter of Liberties”, limiting the King’s power and strengthening the rights of nobles was signed by King John at Runnymede near London on June 15, 1215. Brokered by the Archbishop of Canterbury and meant to rein in rebellious barons, without any sincere intent John was simply playing for time to consolidate his despotic rule. Contrary to popular belief Magna Carta did not initiate the decline of feudalism but did establish the principle in the than western world that everyone including the king was subject to the law. The guaranteeing of the right to justice and a fair trial to any individual were already articulated and implemented in Islam as articles of faith 500 years earlier.

With the peasantry dependant upon landowners holding large tracts of lands doled out to them by the British between 1858 and 1947, feudalism is alive and well in Pakistan today. By bequeathing land which was not theirs in the first place, the British created a core of feudal lords, bureaucrats and military personnel, camouflaging the rule of their “Commonwealth” in the 20th century with different democratic models.  Ingratiating themselves to the British overlords the crown’s loyal native servants facilitated the crown rule over their fellow natives. Agrarian reforms did away with feudalism in India soon after 1947, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) followed suit a few years later. ZA Bhutto’s Houdini-like brand of “mixed-bag socialism” combined die-hard socialists like JA Rahim, Mairaj Mohammad Khan, Sheikh Mohammad Rashid, Meraj Khalid etc with hard core uncompromising feudals like Khar, Jatoi, Mumtaz Bhutto, etc, With the pendulum swinging right under Gen Ziaul Haq’s 1977 Martial law, feudalism further became entrenched in Pakistan.

Blatantly camouflaging their inherent feudalism over the centuries as a democracy, the British successfully call theirs a constitutional monarchy.  Can they explain the travesty of the un-elected House of Lords? The basic principle “of the people, by the people and for the people” was mutilated by our democracy being intrinsically more flawed than a “constitutional” monarchy. Leo McKinstry was scathingly critical in The Telegraph in Aug 2015, “the continuing survival of the Lords is an indictment of the cowardice and inertia in British politics. Such an obese, obsolescent body should have no place in a modern democracy. …. every argument used to justify its existence is wrong. Its supporters like to pretend that it is packed with wise elder statesman, brilliant experts and distinguished public servants. This could not be further from the truth: most if its members are souped-up councillors, political apparatchiks, failed MPs and party donors.” McKinstry could well be talking about our “indirectly” elected Senate. Subject to fraud and manipulation, indirect election to this enduring disgrace only serves to perpetuate feudalism, it is an insult to the concept of democracy.

Freed of British bondage in 1947, feudal lords and bureaucrats continue to hold wise-like grip over Pakistan today, almost all political parties being run like feudal estates. The present form of elections is a mere ritual-like exercise with those elected to Parliament considering power to be a free licence to loot, plunder and oppress the people, all in the name of the Constitution. Those elected depend upon “special interest groups” (and individuals) for survival rather than those who voted them into office.

The ‘first-past- the- post’ (FPTP) proliferating through the Commonwealth is the “democratic” formula devised by the British to perpetuate the feudal system. This system favours the winner securing the highest number of votes, not necessarily the majority of votes in a constituency. This excludes smaller parties from ‘fair’ representation. This FPTP allows a small powerful minority to always come to power and rule over the majority with potential to spawn and sustain anarchy by creating divisions among sects, biradiris, castes, etc. Meant to foment strife FPTP is the democratic version of the British “divide and rule” policy. With this the case in more than 80% of the seats in our National and Provincial assemblies, it is vital to have a mandatory “run-off election” without an absolute majority in the first vote in a single constituency. This way the voters will ultimately have two stark choices instead of the multiple ones in the first round. Besides exercising the will of the majority and make elections difficult to rig and manipulate, a run-off election will encourage diverse groupings to compromise to join together to get a majority.

Marginalising the smaller parties causes frustration, voters deserve a voice in Parliament in proportion to the strength of the political groups in the electorate. For “Proportional Representation” 20-25% of additional seats in Parliament should go to the losing candidates of the political parties on the basis of the percentage of the total votes cast for the losing candidates. The percentage of votes a party receives will then be more closely reflected in the number of seats it attains in the National Assembly (NA). In 2002, the PPP got lesser NA seats than the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) despite having a greater number of votes. In 2013 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) was the second biggest party according to votes cast after the PML-N, it was ranked third in terms of NA seats.

Not held based on population alone, for elections a formula balancing population with land must be devised. Balochistan constitutes 43% of Pakistan’s total land mass with its wealth of natural resources, its vast rangeland, its coastal belt and rich mineral and hydrocarbon deposits. Disenchantment among the local populace because of being treated negatively persist because of unrealistic policies by successive govts.  The low level insurgency has since been brought under control by the Pakistan Army. Out of the 342 seats in the National Assembly, Balochistan has just 14 seats. Balochistan must have more representation in the NA (least 45-50 seats) to make the population feel that their voice will be heard.

Providing governance at the doorstep of the people is vital for any civilized society, without people participation at the grassroots level democracy becomes a farce. Functioning Local Bodies (LB) encourage self-participation, ownership, debate and involvement of local communities, stakeholders in the welfare and wellbeing of a unified society. Rampant feudalism in this modern world keeps us as prisoners in the heart of darkness. Our imperfect democracy is a ready-made recipe for fomenting strife and undermining good governance at every level. Democracy will not be only possible in a hundred years unless the “Local Bodies” system coupled with “Proportional Representation” gives a voice to the people to overcome the feudal system making Pakistan’s present democracy a farce.

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COMBATING CORRUPTION FOR GOOD GOVERNANCE

Transparency International’s (TI) 2017 report ‘People and Corruption: Asia Pacific” voices concerns across the globe about growing inequality, poverty and exclusion of the most vulnerable. As a diverse and rapidly developing region, “it is essential that the countries in the Asia-Pacific region achieve sustainable and equitable development – this can only be done by ensuring that public decision-making promotes the common good. Corruption undermines this, as it distorts democratic processes and promotes private over public interests”.  Ranked among the highly corrupt countries in TI’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for a straight 22 years (1995-2016), corruption in Pakistan derails governance by being deeply entrenched in almost all State organs and in public institutions. Effective anti-corruption has failed to be implemented because the role of the State’s anti-corruption bodies is wanting and questionable.

To combat corruption and resolve the problems of governance, it is essential to look at the impact on social development. Social development is meant to improve the living conditions of the people, enabling them to become useful members of society, so they can benefit from changing living conditions. This means progress in its economic and all other definitions needs to benefit people and recognition that people shape development processes. The major indicators of social development are poverty rate, infant mortality, general life expectation, literacy rate, health care factors, gender equality, etc. It is very clear that Pakistan lags behind in most, if not all of these indicators.

Corruption undermines structures of governance that are already weak and hampers the State’s service delivery.  Weakness of State institutions is often blamed on repeated army rule, but what about our many civilian govts who came into power through the ballot but not one of them exhibited even an iota of intent in improving governance? This become clear from the apathy of successive govts relating to a 2008 report ‘National Commission on Govt Reforms’ (NCGR) authored by Dr. Ishrat Hussain. This contained a comprehensive analysis of the problems of governance and offered a very well-thought out and carefully planned roadmap of solutions. Swept under the carpet this report, thus remains dormant even today.

Pakistan’s social indicators are abysmal, human development has never been a priority in Pakistan. In the 2016 Human Development Index (HDI) Pakistan has been ranked at 147 out of 188 countries ranked. In order to improve human development, Pakistan will have to invest heavily in employment, engagement and empowerment of youth whose numbers are growing and also provide basic social services and safety nets that will  empower people to live lives they yearn for. Recently there has been a spate of incidents of civil unrest by opposition political parties and other groups, these were fuelled by a growing perception about the govt failing in its policy-making and has not prioritizing the people’s needs nor listening to their voices and grievances – all these are negative indicators of governance.

Given the connection between governance, service provision and social development, there is a dire need for reforms in governance in Pakistan. This has been conveniently neglected and downplayed especially by our political rulers who fear for their reliable power structures that can be used to win next elections. Given the appalling situation in the social sector, the national interest and the interest of the people require the govt to take measures for improving living conditions. While the NCGR report will need some updating it can otherwise be used as a starting point for reforms. To quote Dr. Ishrat Hussain, “Government reform has to be comprehensive, concurrent and coordinated as partial, isolated and adhoc efforts will not produce the synergy required to achieve the desired results.”

Devolution of power must be the focus of governance reforms. While our centralized system of govt has positive aspects, its negative factors include the break-up of Pakistan, dissatisfaction among provinces, demands for autonomy and secessionist movements. We must have the reorganisation of the federal set-up with a stronger role of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) and a new basis for the National Finance Commission Award (NFC). Such measures will discourage ethnicity–based policies and movements and strengthen unity of the country.  Devolution of power must reach down to the grassroots level and create, expand and improve a local govt system which is covered in the Constitution under Article 140A. Almost no one talks about the lack of local govt structure at the lowest tier through which the State is supposed to provide essential services to the people. The media rightly focuses on the PanamaGate or the Swiss cases, however these are remotely connected to the masses. The absence of local govts or the shams being run as “grassroots democracy” do not seem to warrant serious media attention. The implementation of the devolution of power plan of 2010 in the provinces was lacking, real devolution of power means the higher levels should give way and transfer powers to a lower level. With the system in full control of feudals, old and nouveau alike, this will never be allowed to happen.

As highlighted in the NCGR report, institutional reforms at the federal, provincial and local levels are clearly defined and overlapping avoided. The British civil service strength is the strong ethical commitment of service members, sadly this was lost. There is a need to re-install such ethical commitment into the services through training but also through a transparent system of accountability in all spheres of govt. Such accountability would not only be means to fight and prevent corruption, it will also promote effectiveness of governance and create trust in the govt. Equal treatment by the State will create feelings of equality and commitment that is the basis of democracy, unlike recent experiences with political accountability where a gap is seen between legal and moral accountability. Given our special identity, ethical aspects of governance must be grounded in general principles of Islam to bridge the gap between legal and moral rightfulness and join the two together.

Crying out for change and resolution of issues faced, today there is dismay among the people of this impoverished nation in the air with negativity, gloom and distrust assuming threatening proportions even as the nation faces challenges, some quite formidable. While accountability cannot happen overnight things seems to be changing.  The Supreme Court verdict explicitly damning Mian Nawaz Sharif for his recurring penchant for untruths and evading facts is most refreshing.   Coinciding with the Saudi Crown Prince’s onslaught against corruption, would Maryum include Saudis alongwith the superior judiciary and the Army in the “conspiracy against the Sharifs”? (the writer is a defence and security analyst).

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