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Archive for February, 1990

The Sindh factor – III

(This is the CONCLUDING article on the series)

The PPP is the majority party in Sindh, it must take steps to establish firm leadership. Mr Qaim Ali Shah is a nice enough man, unfortunately smouldering Sindh is beyond his control, the radical measures that must be taken exceeds his capacity to either enact or enforce. The PPP has enough talent among its higher echelons to make a suitable choice. The issues are so real and apparent that falling back on blue-ribboned commissions to pontificate endlessly about the root causes is hypocrisy. Apocalypse being upon us we should get down to taking positive action, political and economic, NOW.

Politically we must immediately, without further delay, make the Metropolitan City Governments in Pakistan, particularly in Sindh, functional. All administrative powers pertaining to socio-economic functions in the city must rest with the elected head of the city. The city itself must be divided into PRECINCTS of not more than 50,000 population, each 4 PRECINCTS must be a SUB-DIVISION, 5 SUB-DIVISIONS making a DISTRICT (population ONE million). The PRECINCT must be a whole administrative unit. Each District must have an elected MAYOR as the administrative head of the unit, the judiciary which must start at the PRECINCT level and go up on the same pattern must be completely separate from the executive. This judiciary may be divided into Metropolitan Courts for the cities and County Courts for the rural areas but also on the Provincial and Federal lines in each city/town/rural area as a counterweight to excess by anyone segment of the executive. Karachi with its 9 million population would have 9 DISTRICTS. The MAYOR of any city with more than 3 million population should be called the Lieutenant Governor. The Lieutenant Governor must appoint a qualified person as a Police Commissioner heading the Metropolitan Police. One can have Lieutenant Governors for Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh Province. All the utilities and services i.e. electricity, gas, water, sewerage, garbage disposal, educational, medical and health services, telecommunication facilities, transportation, etc, must be the responsibility of the Lieutenant Governor. If Ms. Benazir, young and administratively inexperienced when she took over as PM, can give an above par performance for the past year, what stops Lieutenant Governor Farooq Sattar (or Lieutenant Governor Aftab Shaikh) very much elected at the more basic city level from an above par performance level job under a democratic system? If either of them fail in their tasks or responsibilities the masses can always send them packing into oblivion, constitutionally. We must give the political (and administrative) power to whoever has been elected by the people, that is the essence of democracy, violation of the basic principles is what constitutes to the anarchy that we are witnessing today.


The Sindh factor-II

Most causes of ethnic conflict are economic, the root cause of tensions are because of perceived or real disparity between living standards. TV having brought the availability of life’s comforts in the first world to the general viewing of the masses, expectation levels have gone up proportionately. While the masses are able to understand that there must exist a gap in the standards between the developing and the developed world, they are giving short shrift to either real or perceived inequality of any kind within the country. As the urban population has grown by leaps and bounds, in Karachi mostly by emigrants from India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Iran and the people of interior Sindh, Punjab, Sarhad and Balochistan searching for a livelihood, this has been compounded by burgeoning birth rates in the major urban areas. The Mohajirs do not want further Mohajireen except from their own roots, this is best exemplified by the Mohajir agitation to repatriate the stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh to Pakistan (and in effect Karachi), while in the same breath they are agitating that Pathan, Punjabi, Baloch and even people from interior of Sindh should not be permitted into Karachi.

The Mohajir in Karachi is well educated because of the concentration of educational facilities here. On a relative basis, the number of educational institutions in Karachi and Hyderabad are much more than any other comparable geographical entity in Pakistan, Lahore and the modern city of Islamabad included. In absolute comparisons, Faisalabad is half the size of Karachi in population, yet it is squeezed into a land area one-fourth the size of Karachi, the density of population is thus twice as much. Karachi has ten to twelve times the numbers of schools and colleges than in Faisalabad, potable water is available three times less per capita, medical facilities are about a sixth of Karachi’s. Similarly all the cities of Sarhad, Balochistan, Punjab and interior Sindh are thus affected in varying degrees of neglect. The Mohajir is simply a victim of the enhanced facilities of education executed in Karachi soon after independence in 1947 (and till Karachi remaining the seat of Federal power upto 1960), in a Catch-22 situation more facilities have meant more graduates whereas jobs have not increased on a proportionate basis. At the same time, a large number of Mohajir graduates tend to complete their education in India before migrating to Pakistan (almost all to Karachi without exception), thereby causing greater pressure on the acute shortage of job availability. This does not for a moment suggest that jobs should not be provided, it is just that it is really nobody who is discriminating against the Mohajirs as a part of a conspiracy as is being claimed by the Mohajirs, this is the result simply of bad planning complicated by the circumstances availing at this time.


The Sindh factor-I

This is the FIRST in a series of articles on the subject)

One of the greatest mass migrations in history started in 1947 and has continued since. Initially the flight of Muslims from India took place to both the wings of then Pakistan, Hindus (and Sikhs) from both West and East Pakistan crossed over into the adjacent areas of bordering India. This migration been most concentrated in the Province of Sindh, particularly to the major urban areas of Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur and to a lesser extent, Mirpurkhas. In areas of Punjab and Bengal, the refugees blended in with the local surroundings, speaking the same language they had no identity problem. People tend to forget that the Mohajirs in Sindh do not have a monopoly over the refugee-status, the most complete exodus took place from East Punjab to West Punjab and vice versa. Today’s Mohajirs in Sindh still have relations in Behar, UP, etc, in Indian Punjab there was not one single Punjabi Muslim left. Refugees in almost the same numbers came in from other areas of India to Sindh, Punjabi Muslim from East Punjab into West Punjab. In Sindh Province the migrants were mostly Urdu speaking from UP, Behar and Hyderabad, they tended to settle down in the urban centres. As new canal-fed land was commissioned, hardy Punjabi settlers (some of them from East Punjab and Rajputana) tended to settle in Sindh rural areas, Hindu-abandoned land being available, many ex-servicemen were allotted evacuee property and government land in Sindh. As residential areas and factory buildings came up in Sindh Urban centres, skilled Punjabi craftsmen came to Karachi, hardy Pathan, Baloch and Kashmiri moving in as manual labour. Enterprising small businessmen, the Pathans eventually controlled public transportation. This was the first influx and it lasted for over 15 years, slowing down slightly because of the shifting of the capital from Karachi to Islamabad.

The second great influx started in 1971, as those Mohajirs who had migrated to East Pakistan, mostly from Behar, started shifting to West Pakistan (now Pakistan) during and after the emergence of Bangladesh. The former East Pakistanis flooded into Karachi mainly, the job market became scarce and economic hardships became more acute because of the lack of infrastructure. These refugees were augmented by Burmese Muslims fleeing their own problems in Arakan. At the same time, the Gulf fever, “Dubai Chalo”, was catching on and Karachi had a large transient population, up-country Pakistanis spending months in Karachi before getting a chance to go abroad. In this state of affairs, outright cheats and frauds got into the act and for each individual who did find a job in the Middle East, three to four expatriate aspirants were stranded in Karachi, most losing their family’s entire savings to unscrupulous travel and recruiting agents. Very few left Karachi to go back home, destitute they turned to any job they could find and they came from all over Pakistan, even from the interior of Sindh. One still finds them in droves outside the Saudi and other Arab Consulates in Karachi. Jobs have become scarcer and scarcer. In the period of nationalisation by the first PPP Government, the investment climate took a nose-dive having a further dampening effect on the job market.


Crossroads and Consensus

Heralding in the 1990s, Pakistan has reason for hope, predictions of an early demise for democracy have been (sic Mark Twain) greatly exaggerated. We are in a period of intense politics, our two major opposing groups vying for supremacy, an unyielding force meeting an immovable object, both failing in the attempts to unseat the other in the electoral power bases, important for democracy in Pakistan that this was as it should be, at least for the first year. While the constant testing of people’s support may be a good thing after a decade of autocratic rule, “horse trading” has become a shameful part of our political pantheon.
The first item on the agenda should have been for various political factions to persevere with the essence of democracy, allowing democratic institutions to flourish. While debate must be passionate, recriminations must not have the rancour of life and death. Taking up positions on constitutional sleight of hand invites third force intervention, entirely unwelcome to the masses if the situation slides from bad to worse. Essential to the survivability of democracy must be strict adherence to the rule of law, as much the responsibility of the government as it is that of the opposition. Genuine political leaders seldom need to bend laws deliberately, unfortunately their political and administrative underlings do, pursuing their own personal and criminal vendettas, misusing their positions of authority at will as if there are no tomorrows. The tragedy is that individual and/or mass frustration at rank injustice recognizes only the culpability of political leadership, who when subsequently boxed into a corner because of their flunkies’ misdeeds, may become (in a Catch-22 situation) unwilling and unwitting accomplices to misdemeanours galore out of misplaced political loyalty. This scenario has been played out so often this century that it has lost further novelty.

One remembers the early eloquence of Ms Benazir’s better political appointees, the Kennedyesque Aitzaz Ahsan, his passionate explanations about the “Reference Points” that led to the disintegration of the rule of law in the last decade. The appointment of a practicing, successful (and credible) civil rights lawyer as the Minister of Interior was an important milestone in any third world as it brought the state’s police apparatus under seemingly legal aegis, unfortunately the police-state apparatchik have a hydra-headed monster’s aptitude to resurface and blight all promises made, the roots of malfeasance runs deep causing grief and resentment. Those in danger of being publicly exposed as corrupt and/or inefficient may react more often than not by turning to close relatives/friends in organisations like the FIA, using their vast administrative and across-the-board legal powers to witchhunt, putting the “Catcher in the Rye” so to speak, a harassment capability, the common knowledge of which may horrify the Honourable Interior Minister who must assume responsibility as the buck stops on his desk. Those are the “Reference Points” that PPP or any other political government, be it the IJI in Punjab or the Coalition in Balochistan should watch out for and maybe even fear, ruthlessly stamping them out. Among other things, we understand that agencies like FIA have powers whereby they can question anyone, search any premises, take any documents without a magistrate-authorised search warrant. Above all, they need not tell you why. If so, then what are our fundamental rights under the constitution? And why villify Martial Law? Probably the only other agencies in the world one can remember that had such powers were Hitler’s Gestapo or Honecker’s Staasi or Ceausescu’s Securitaate, among others.


The economics of war

The consequences of war on the economy seldom fazes the enthusiasm of those who would rush into battle at the drop of a hat. War brings with it many privations, without prejudice to both the victor and the vanquished, the only difference being in varying degrees. Few nations have the luxury of having enough time for gearing up for battle, particularly those engaged in defensive operations. While one can safely say that pre-World War II most of the major combatant nations had time enough to prepare for battle, nonetheless all the countries had tremendous problems re-aligning their economies onto a war scale. While the US had the advantage of early positive decision making by the combination of Roosevelt and Gen Marshall, the Atlantic and Pacific moats remained an obstacle within which the economy of the US never did have to undergo a sea change, even then the Japanese attack on purely military targets in Pearl Harbour shocked the US, both by the element of surprise and the destruction wrought on the US Pacific Fleet. The ending of World War II saw the economies of the nations of Europe almost totally devastated, among the Allies the victors, the British, the Dutch and the French could not hold their vast Empires together. Rising Phoenix-like from the ashes, Germany and Japan, the two defeated nations of the Second World War, are the paramount economic powers today. One of the victors (and a Super Power, Soviet Union, is looking to these two countries for economic aid, most of Gorbachev’s Perestroika depends upon attracting foreign investment. The economy of the other Super Power, US of A, is under constant pressure from Japan’s widespread investment in mainland USA.