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Archive for October, 1990

National government

The people have spoken, the people’s will must prevail, that is the essence of democracy. The IJI sweep of the Punjab may be stunning, but the portents of a PPP defeat was a foreseen and distinct possibility, the surprises being (1) that it came as a surprise to many neutral observers and (2) the extent of the Bhutto downfall. Flags and vociferous travelling circuses do not constitute a popular support, as seen in any modern-day election campaign, the USA and other western nations included.

Indian correspondent, Inder Malhotra when interviewed by the BBC in New Delhi on Oct 25, 1990, lamented that most Indians were very upset about Ms Benazir’s electoral fall because (1) their sympathies were with her and that (2) the people of India were apprehensive about the prospective IJI Government’s stance over Kashmir, Khalistan and Afghanistan. In a nutshell he described one of the main reasons for the crucial Punjab swing against Bhutto, the mass perception that she, despite shrill rhetoric on the electoral hustings, was “soft” on the Indians. Most armchair analysts rely on visible facts, they forget that deep emotions that made India India and Pakistan Pakistan persist. A misconceived sense of liberalism among certain elite circles in Pakistan accepts Indian whisky in Indian diplomatic parties while Muslim freedom fighters (and many bystander innocents) are regularly gunned down indiscriminately in Kashmir, in effect countenancing Indian atrocities. Inder Malhotra parroted Ms Benazir’s charges about rigging, he was “apprehensive that ISI had prevented the people in large numbers from voting”. Other than the major turnout witnessed on Election Day, the mind boggling logistics aspect of this exercise leaves one incredulous, one is grateful that the NDI delegation stated otherwise quite emphatically. Rajiv Gandhi’s vehement dismissal of the Kashmir problem while sitting next to Ms Benazir and her failure to give on the spot rebuttal got her into trouble with the voters in Pakistan, particularly Punjab.


D minus one

Given that election fever has now reached a pitch, the indications for the people of Pakistan on the morrow is that essentially we will have a hung parliament. The title of this article, one day less than D-Day (Doomsday, for democracy in Pakistan), is appropriate.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by Ms Benazir Bhutto will remain the single largest national party, its alliance with Asghar Khan’s Tehrik-e-Istiqlal (TI), Malik Mohammad Qasim’s faction of the PML and the Tehrik-i-Nizam-i-Fiqria Jafria (TNFJ) in the Pakistan Democratic Alliance (PDA) is that much window dressing meant to restore the respectability lost due to various shenanigans. Asghar Khan loses some of his principled lustre, jumping onto the PPP bandwagon, he “democratically” divided the two seats allocated to TI between himself and his son. The PPP has been resurgent at the expense of the IJI in the last weeks of the election campaign and should obtain at least 4-5 more seats in the Punjab than the 35-36 seats originally predicted, increasing their tally of seats to 41 or maybe 42, 25-26 seats in Sindh, 6-7 seats in NWFP and 1-2 seats in Balochistan, a total of about 77-78 seats. Because of its hard-core electoral support a clutch of Alliance partners and some notable lapses in the ONE on ONE strategy of the IJI maybe 2-3 seats additionally may come within its grasp but even then the tally will be about 79-80 seats in a National Assembly of 217 members. This constitutes at net loss of about a dozen seats from the 1988 tally. Some of this loss can be attributed to the crucial swing factor created by the Asif Zardari-yoke of corruption.


Clear and Present Danger

To deal with the situation in Karachi, the PML(N) threw out its own Chief Minister to impose Governor’s Rule. With disorder rapidly descending into anarchy, the Army was brought in “aid of civil power” under Article 245 of the Constitution, Military Trial Courts (MTCs) being set up to deal with cases that qualified as falling under the head of “terrorism”. Military Appellate Courts were set up as a last resort of appeal, two persons whose appeals had been rejected have been hanged. In the meantime the Supreme Court, having been approached to define the legality of a “parallel” judicial system in the country, has suspended the further carrying out of the extreme punishment of death imposed by the MTCs till the case is pending in court is decided one way or the other. With the MTCs “teeth” clamped for the moment, their deterrent effect has been put in suspended animation.


The Mohajir Factor-II

Most ethnic strifes have economic overtones, yet in the blind hatred of violence this is lost sight of, says

Anytime any new political force emerges on the national scene they tend to flex their political muscle for gains for their supporters. This is not a Mohajir confined phenomenon alone or restricted to Pakistan alone, it is pervasive practice in most countries of the world. Though not exactly a good example, to an extent the “Mohajir” factor resembles the “coloured” factor in the USA, both are minorities that have majorities in certain key urban cities, e.g. Washington D.C, Chicago, etc. The world has not come to an end because Deakin has become Mayor of New York, except that Mayor Deakin has the executive powers that any democracy gives to a metropolitan government, Mayor Farooq Sattar has no such powers, he is ruled mostly by bureaucratic fiat.

It is very true that the MQM has an ugly side. No civilised society can countenance the use of “terror” squads but in the proliferation of squads of all ilk and political colours where squads meant for self-protection tend to run wild, one cannot single out the MQM only for ostracisation. All militant groups, whether they are PPP, MQM, Jiay Sindh, etc need to be exterminated by strong, punitive action by the law enforcement agencies. At the same time, one cannot also sit back and see the Sindhi become an ‘endangered’ or ‘extinct’ species in the urban areas of their own land. Any attempt to force the Sindhis to migrate out of the cities of Sindh should be stamped out ruthlessly.


The Mohajir Factor-I A time to compromise

Pakistan is estimated to have a total of 12.56 million households, of which 0.96 million of the population are Urdu lingual only (THE NATION, August 26, 1990), a total of 7.60% thus having Urdu as the only language. In Punjab 4.26% Urdu speaking only makes up 0.31 million households while in Sindh 0.61 million such households comprise 22.64% of the population. The next largest segment of Mohajirs of Urdu speaking only population is in the Urban Areas of Islamabad Capital Territory where 6,577 households make up 17.73% of the total 35,683 households. A comprehensive survey shows that the largest concentration of Mohajirs (the term used hereafter in this article to denote Urdu speaking only refugees from India and their descendants) in the rural areas of Pakistan are also in the Province of Sindh, 3,348 Mohajir households making up only 2.17% of the 1.54 million households. On the other hand in the Urban areas of Sindh, 0.58 million Mohajir origin households comprise fully 49.68% of the population, whereas in overall statistics of the whole of Pakistan’s urban areas they make up 24.40% of the 3.41 million households.

Analysis thus shows that the largest number of people of Mohajirs are settled in (1) Sindh (2) the major Urban areas of Sindh (3) Islamabad where government servants re-located with the shifting of the Federal capital and (4) the urban population of Pakistan, comprising a fairly significant segment, almost a quarter of the households.


Model for metropolitan government

Democracy is paid lip-service in our country, lofty ideals being propagated from every pinnacle but never allowed in practice, particularly in the functioning of a metropolitan government. Town planning and management by elected officials must cater for housing for the city’s population with judicious distribution thereof of utilities like electricity, gas and water, adequate sewerage and garbage disposal facilities with commensurate telecommunications, good medical and educational institutions supported by extensive recreational facilities. A sound traffic plan must be ensured with wide roads and parking places monitored by efficient traffic police. A well organised Fire and Ambulance service is a must for metropolitan areas. Since it takes money to effect all this there should be an effective tax assessment and collection department. Above all law enforcement is a crucial issue and metropolitan police have to maintain the peace while enforcing the authority of the metropolitan government. Our cities are decaying from a lack of effective organisational structure, the main problem city being Karachi. Incredibly enough, one of the most organised communities in South Asia, the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) is located in Karachi and can serve as a role model to emulate, with the changes necessary for a democratic grass roots structure.

DHA Karachi was registered in March 1953 as Pakistan Defence Officers Cooperative Housing Society (PDOCHS) with more than 7,000 acres of leased Defence Land and 640 acres of Provincial Government land under its aegis, bifurcated into nine phases, Phase 9 being abandoned later due to diversion of Malir River through it. By 1978 the financial condition of the Society had deteriorated to such an extent that the then Martial Law Administrator, Lt Gen Iqbal Khan, dissolved the PDOCHS and DHA was created through Presidential Order. A serving Army Brigadier, functioning as the Administrator with retired Armed Forces officers as the Secretary and four directors, is responsible to the Executive Board headed by the senior Armed Forces Officer in Karachi, in this case the Corps Commander. The Executive Board answers to a Governing Body headed by the Federal Secretary, Ministry of Defence.


PIA out on a limb?

One of Pakistan’s corporate successes of the 60s and 70s, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), is on the verge of becoming an embarrassing basket case. The momentum established in the previous two decades kept PIA going for the last decade, the cumulative effect of the rot that has set in since 1983 deepened during the PPP regime because of political interference in the day-to-day running, and except for a brief interregnum where Arif Abbasi swam against the political tide and the morale of PIA personnel was boosted enough to raise fleeting hopes that the Airline was back at a Jump-off Point for the 90s, PIA has been going downhill at an accelerated pace and unless major steps are taken to rectify this snowballing situation, our much vaunted and admired PIA, as we once knew it and were proud of, will be no more than a flying rural bus service.

An airline is supposed to carry passengers and cargo from one destination to another, ON TIME and IN COMFORT. While comfort has been the subject of an earlier article, we shall concentrate on the major priority of a discerning public, the ability of an airline to stay as per the given schedule. We shall study a length of 100 days and divide it into two periods of 50 days. Taking Arif Abbasi’s departure as Managing Director PIA as the mean date, June 30 can serve as the half way mark, the two periods then start from May 11, 1990 to June 30, 1990 as the FIRST period and July 01, 1990 to August 19, 1990 as the SECOND period.