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Archive for July, 2000

Adjusting “our principled stand”

A week long “senior” envoys conference started a couple of days ago in the nation’s capital. Among the dozen or so envoys taking part are Ambassadors Maleeha Lodhi (USA), Shahryar Khan (France), Riaz Khokhar (China), High Commissioner Jahangir Ashraf Qazi (India) etc. To quote an unnamed source, “It will be a unique occasion in a sense that it will provide ample opportunity to the Foreign Office and the envoys to re-orient the foreign policy. We are endeavouring to turn the foreign policy from a somewhat poor vehicle to an efficient vehicle to achieve results,” unquote. The “seven” (after the CE’s annunciating of a seven-point agenda SEVEN is somewhat of a magical number in Pakistan) includes (1) peace and security in South Asia (2) Kashmir (3) terrorism (4) CTBT (5) enhancing Pakistan’s image abroad (6) economic, trade matters and (7) domestic issues.

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Legitimising Dishonesty

Most coups are popular with the public at the time of their launching, very few survive the test of time. The coup-makers arrive full of sincere intentions, a burning will to correct the anomalies that endanger the State and a stated resolve not to allow temptations of the good life to get to them. Unfortunately they almost always fall prey to the system they are sworn to rectify. The Oct 12 event seemed to be different but is showing ominous signs of being headed the same way. Man for man the principal actors of Oct 12 are professionally far more competent than their predecessor coup-makers (1958, 1977 and 1989), very surprising, therefore, that the lessons learnt at very hard cost to the reputation of the uniform have been lost, or so it would seem. Cynics claimed that Oct 12 came about because Musharraf’s close aides wanted to save their jobs rather than motivation by any high-minded vision for Pakistan, they were swept aside by the groundswell of mass public opinion favouring the take-over. As we all know perceptions change with time, eventually they count more than facts, public impatience at the continuing status quo may not be justified but it is a key factor.

The chapter on “Aid to Civil Power” in the Manual of Pakistan Military Law (MPML), highlights the threat of the use of force being more potent than the use of force itself. Conversely when force is applied it must be effective. Internal Security (IS) Duties require that even the threat of force must be used sparingly, the body that represents that force must necessarily be kept aloof from the populace to maintain mystique, familiarity breeding contempt. This military regime, albeit in good faith, has seen fit to break this dictum, a broad spectrum of the rank and file getting involved with nearly every administrative process in day-to-day governance. From maintaining macro-accountability as the principal aim, the Army has come down symbolically to meter-reading. Given that the whole political and administrative machinery was rotten to the core, the Army needed to be kept sacrosanct from the taint of pervasive corruption. The revenues have indeed increased, not only because of the khaki meter readers but because of the “monitors” spreading out in various spheres, but at what cost to the Army? And what happens when they go back to the barracks? The worst decision was to include serving uniformed personnel in the tax survey teams for documenting the economy. If the facts are reported by the ISI, MI and Field Intelligence units as they are and not as the seniors would like to hear them, the military hierarchy could evaluate the damage to the uniform because of the traders confrontation with the survey teams. The CBR suckered the Army into this morass to shield their own inefficiency and corruption, the numbers being announced are a farce with which the Ministry of Finance is fooling GHQ. Remember who are the past masters of fudging figures? Most of those returning the forms are already registered tax-payers. Documentation does not need survey teams, it could have been done within the four walls with the available telephone, gas, electricity and water bills, collating these with property records with the Registrars. Random surveys should have followed documentation. Far worse than a simple protest against tax surveys, the authority of civilised society to conduct the legal business of a State has been challenged, that invisible mandate being the foundation of any civilisation. The State has to impose taxes to meet its expenditures, that revenue is the fuel that generates governance. Refusing to pay taxes to the British, the Americans tossed tea chests into Boston Harbour as a protest, it is now known in American History as the “The Boston Tea Party”. What does Umar Sailya”s burning of tax survey forms on the front pages of all newspapers amount to, “The Karachi Mango Party”? And could Umar Sailya be a modern day Daniel Boone? More important the power of the military has been questioned, this public defiance of authority cannot go unchallenged, lack of counter-action will weaken the ability of the institution that holds Pakistan together. Others with far deadlier intentions lurk in the shadows. Will the senior military hierarchy kindly wake up to this very present threat? Or have they succumbed to business as usual, getting contracts for cronies, savouring the trappings of power? Was the Oct 12 coup then really a matter of saving jobs? Whatever happened to Clauswitz and the first principle of war, “the selection and maintenance of aim”?

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Total Commitment Needs Full Participation

Democracy can never be meaningful without full participation of all the peoples within a democratic unit, i.e. constituency. Ways and means have to be found to ensure that most of the population gets involved, at least in the lowest tiers, or what is now commonly called the grassroots level. Among the registered voters in Pakistan there is a 54% men-46% women ratio even though the present population count says the ratio is 48% men-52% women. The number of seats that are taken up by women in every tier of democratic participation is not only negligible, it is almost non-existent. That is a non-starter for democracy. The National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) has proposed that there may be an equal number of seats upto the District Assembly, one feels it would be almost impossible to find credible women candidates to stand upto the electoral test for several years yet unless we use “force-feed” methods. For the purpose of giving women an equal voice in our democracy one proposes that we use the “running mate” formula not only at the grassroots level but up the tiers right upto the Senate. The formula is simple, if a male candidate stands for election, he will have with him as a running mate a woman, and vice versa if a woman is the candidate she will have a male as the “running mate”. Off course there has to be some pre-qualification for such candidates. Both men and women can compete on equal footing, the “coattail effect” will ensure that both the sexes will have equal number of seats on the Councils or the Assemblies. It has to be accepted that such a system will favour women deliberately so as to obtain equal participation by (and for) them, a must for meaningful democracy.

Democracy means effective governance from the grassroots level to the uppermost tier by representatives of the people elected by the people in a fair and transparent process that is all inclusive, i.e. it tries to accommodate every segment of the population and unify them though the electoral process. This verification will cut through ethnicity, sects, caste, etc. One of the best decisions taken so far is to have elections on a run-off basis i.e. the winning candidate must get 50% or more votes in the first round or there will be a second round between those two who got the maximum votes in the first round to establish the outright winner. Those voting thus have a clear choice, concurrently this breeds homogeneity since a coalition of interests must unite to either (1) elect a candidate in a positive display of their strength or (2) by a negative show of their preference they band together to keep a candidate they do not want out of the electoral process. Run-off elections encourage unity in an indirect method. Self-interest cuts against the ambitions of “special interest groups” who band together with different groups for a common purpose even though their views otherwise may be in divergence. In other words those with interests more common to each other will cause together out of a common cause.

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Refining the Devolution Plan

Yugoslavia is a classic example in modern times why we should be very careful when dealing with diverse races within one boundary. While Marshal Tito was alive he kept Yugoslavia going on the strength of his personality and the use of police-state methods. Do we have a Marshal Tito in Pervaiz Musharraf, in fact does Pervaiz Musharraf want to be a Marshal Tito? In democracies neither cult nor authoritarian measures work. The disintegration of Yugoslavia only confirms that devolution of power could probably end up in a fatal miscalculation. Equate Punjab to Serbia in the present feeling of the Provinces towards the Punjab and Yugoslavia becomes a mirror image of our problems except that in Yugoslavia there was also a religious divide and in Pakistan we have a very hostile neighbour. Given that the resemblance of Yugoslavia is uncanny, how can we bring the much needed devolution of power into the body politics of Pakistan?

In the absence of making more Provinces, the only course for us is to have Divisional Governments which will be both economic only and politically feasible entities, almost all the Divisions are capable of generating enough revenues for self-sustenance. Whether we are in an urban or rural area, we are very much a tribal society, divided on ethnic and sectarian lines, a concentrated and united minority could well exercise absolute rule over a fragmented majority. So we have to get a better mix the proposed Assembly i.e. go higher thereon the District. Any plan for devolution must provide autonomy within reasonable parameters and not make it a stepping stone for an unilateral declaration of independence (UDI), Federal and Provincial Governments retaining some controls that will act as a bar against separatist tendencies. How does one exercise the fiat of the Federation by essentially making nearly a 100 or so, the Districts will actually become in all but name if the District Government Plan is implemented in its present form? Would Balochistan be able to control 26 such Districts directly? Or for that matter Punjab 34?

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Track 3

On July 1st and 2nd, THE NEWS, with the support of UNDP and CIDA, held a SOUTH ASIA MEDIA SEMINAR for “a free, fair and vibrant media” in the MARRIOTT in Islamabad. Print and electronic media persons in a good number from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal took part in the event at the end of which a draft resolution outlining the objectives of a “South Asian Free Media Association” (SAFMA) was approved, with only one dissenting voice and that also not on the thrust of the declaration but adjusting a couple of phrases here and there. Bhutan and Maldives are far behind the others in development both of the print and electronic media, as such their absence was not felt. One must note that the representation from Pakistan was not as broad-based as it should have been, one would have been far more satisfied if the other big newspaper Groups had participated. The 3-member Committee for Pakistan in SAFMA is thus not really representative of the majority of the print-media.

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South Asia – The media and conflicts

South Asia was a region of endless conflicts between the various configurations of races and religions before the British started their rule in India after the Battle of Plassey 1757. And that is to be understood because two great religions struggled for living space (lebensraum). Internecine conflicts continued during the minority rule of the British period, local animosity was mostly focused on the British Raj, symbolizing the third great religions stamp on South Asia. Since the British departed in 1947, the conflicts have been more defined, some have even gone beyond the South Asian parameters eg the border problem between India and Burma as well as Burma and Bangladesh, the Afghan conflict, etc..

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