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Archive for January, 1993

Casting aspersion on talent

Public sector executives who have made millions by misusing their official positions invariably use the media to cast aspersions on honest talent and thus make merit suspect in the eyes of the intelligentsia and the masses. Propagation of a favourite being too obvious a ploy, the modus operandi is to defame the competition and thus knock it out of contention. The media handlers have a responsibility to the public and to themselves, they should not allow their impartiality to become the instruments of vested interest. The accepted method is to direct a spate of anonymous petitions to the Ministry concerned, the FIA and the Prime Minister’s Inspection Commission. Secondly, contents of these petitions are leaked to both the collaborating and unsuspecting segments of the Press, with obviously sensational results. Before the objects of their wrath can muster any defence, they are already tarred and feathered, guilty until proven innocent. This is unfair for many reasons.

Take the example of the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP). Along with the Cotton Export Corporation of Pakistan (CECP) and the Rice Export Corporation of Pakistan (RECP), TCP forms the third leg of the public sector’s commitment to bolster Pakistan’s exports need. While cotton and rice are traditional items, TCP has the most important task of moving mainly non-traditional items to traditional and non-traditional trade partners. Despite the handicap of not being a true commercial entity in a very sensitive area of commercial operations, TCP made an enormous impact in 1983-85, encouraging genuine business entities to enter non-traditional areas in exports. All ventures are not necessarily successful, similarly some of TCP’s export ventures like mangoes failed to be profitable. However, in the process they opened up new markets for new items. No matter, the then Chairman TCP was vilified from pillar to post, lurid tales were pounced upon by the media. The executives were so pilloried that some of them seriously considered resigning their government service. Most of the information flow was derived from motivated personnel within TCP whose vested interest by defaming the concerned executives was that they would either resign or be summarily removed. The coast would then be clear to loot the public till. This is about par for the course for most of the public sector.


Changing of the guard

Career military officers never really stop acting like subalterns, they try neither to be seen nor heard unless so required by their superiors. For a smooth advancement to the upper reaches of the military hierarchy they do need to be heard of within the Army. Gen Aslam Beg achieved a facelessness of sorts as late Gen Zia’s Chief of General Staff (CGS) and then later as his Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), remaining on the edge of the public eye but well-known within the Army. Gen Asif Nawaz was better known among the citizenry before his elevation as COAS because of his stint as Commander 5 Corps in Sindh. Like the two COAS before him, Gen Abdul Waheed Kakar, is wellknown within the Army, having served as Adjutant General before he became a Corps Commander but in contrast to his predecessors is almost an unknown quantity to the general public, except in Upper Sindh and Quetta.

Gen Beg is soft spoken but extremely loquacious with respect to the media, on the other hand Gen Asif Nawaz was always extremely conscious of the fourth estate but remained taciturn and almost monosyllabic with journalists in public.


The 1993 agenda

Though the past year did not live upto its promise, one should look forward to the future with hope. To quote Cicero, “let us not go over the old ground, let us rather prepare for what is to come,” unquote. As much as the entire world is going through its most comprehensive transition in 50 years, the nation is itself in the midst of transition in the economic and geo-political senses. A new social contract is not yet on the cards though the economic reforms exacted are slowly beginning to take effect and will certainly change the status of life from the once universally desired socialistic society of equals to that of motivation and merit in a system that is capitalist in nature but socialist in feeling.


Economic agenda for 1993

The far-reaching reforms enacted by the Nawaz Sharif Government are now beginning to take hold through the whole spectrum of the economy but there are warning signals during an extended transition period. The State Bank of Pakistan Report for 1991-92 spells out dangers that must be overcome in 1992-1993, mainly the ever increasing deficit spending and the likelihood of double digit spending. While growth has increased to 6.4% of GDP from the 5.5% recorded in 1991, it would be worthwhile to maintain growth levels while fighting inflation.


Sacrifice in the land without hope

An 05 June 1993, a contingent of Pakistani troops was mandated to make an inventory of one of the arms caches of the Somali warlord Gen Farah Aideed. As per the Addis Ababa agreement, each of the warlords had been allowed by the UN to keep a limited number of weapons for self-protection, the proposed inventory was part of an on-going process that had been agreed to. In this specific case, the arms cache was next to a Radio Station run by the Aideed faction but any apprehension of retaliatory measures was dispelled by assurances given by Aideed of absolute compliance with the terms of the agreement. While the lightly armed Pakistani soldiers were engaged in the inventory, Farah Aideed went on the Radio and incited his gunmen that the UN was about to take over the Radio Station. At about 11 a.m. as the Pakistanis started to make their way back, they were surrounded by a seemingly innocent crowd of women and children. Using them as cover, Aideed’s gunmen from the surrounding buildings made the space in-between a deadly killing ground. Unable to fire back without killing women and children, the Pakistani Peacekeepers suffered grievously, at least 23 died, many more were wounded, in avoiding the civilian massacre. One of the proudest battalions of the Pakistan Army, 10 Baluch, lost more casualties in this two hour period than at any time in its proud history, including its stint in North Africa 50 years earlier as a part of the British 8th Army in World War II.


India and state terrorism

The only country in the world, other than Israel, to have acquired land through conflict or intimidation after the end of World War II is India. Israel has the excuse at least that in some of their conflicts with the Arabs they pre-empted imminent aggression and thus were not the aggressor per se. In the South Asian sub-continent, India has openly coveted (and/or made designs to take possession thereof) before actually annexing their neighbour or their prime real estate. In every incident of aggression, care was taken to garb the nakedly expansionist moves under some camouflage or the other.


In defence of Raja Nadir Pervaiz

Adjacent to the Jhang Bazar in Faisalabad lies the Sitaram Temple, this has not been used as a place of worship by the Hindus for some time. Its sanctity is presently in the hands of Christians and Qadianis who live in the vicinity of the temple. On 08 Dec 92, it became one of the many points of focus for the madness that swept the South Asian sub-continent. At about 1:30 p.m, hearing that a crowd of thousands had assembled in the proximity of the temple with murderous intention, Raja Nadir Pervaiz, MNA and a Minister of State in the Nawaz Sharif cabinet, hurried to the spot. Seeing the bloody-minded mood of the assembled mob, he used flamboyant rhetoric to keep them occupied for over an hour, with their frenzy abated in slogans they eventually started to dissipate. In the meantime, the Christian and Qadiani families were evacuated without harm, only a part of the temple had been damaged as the mob vented its anger before Nadir Pervaiz reached the scene. By nightfall, a scant few hours later, the evacuated occupants were back in their places of residence adjacent to the temple. Raja Nadir Pervaiz thus fulfilled his political responsibilities with a mixture of courage, intelligence and discretion.

In stark contrast to the facts, the Indian propaganda machine as well as our esteemed Leader of the opposition, Ms Benazir Bhutto, would have us believe that Nadir Pervaiz personally took a bulldozer to the temple, reducing it to ashes. The shameful bulldozer incident did take place but in Lahore not in Faisalabad and no minister was involved. One may well ask, why has Nadir Pervaiz become the subject of such a vicious campaign of disinformation, one that amounts to character assassination of the worst part?