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Peace Pipeline or Pipedream?

The proposed US$7 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) 2720 km gas “peace pipeline” project is expected to take three to five years to complete. While Pakistan’s demand for gas will expand significantly over the next two decades, India’s need is far more. Presently using 100 million cubic metres per day, this will double in the next 7-8 years. With decline in its reserves India estimates using 400 million cubic meters of gas per day by 2025, almost four times more than in 2005. Having the world’s second largest gas reserve, Iran is the most geographically convenient supplier of gas to both Pakistan and India.


Life After Bugti

It was always on the cards that the Govt of Pakistan (GOP) would mishandle the situation arising out of the death of Akbar Bugti. When the Head of State is dependant upon advice of moderate quality on matters of critical importance, he will not have the counsel he should have access to in a national crisis. Sycophancy is an art perfected over the centuries around rulers who, as their stay in office increases, become averse to hearing anything other than “successes”, messengers (including friends) bringing bad news being usually banished from sight. GOP has blundered into a crisis of national magnitude, turning it into a situation of potential disaster for the country, quite possibly equaling 1971. If someone thinks heads will roll in the wake of this extended ineptitude, he (or she) is mistaken, we are immersed in a “feel good” governance mode that will have the inner circle taking us into greater blunders at the cost of the existence of whatever remains of this nation.


Sindh’s Centrifugal Forces

Within six weeks of re-entry into the body politic of the nation, democracy is performing in line with the general claim made by its detractors that most politicians of the third world put self-interest over good governance as their primary objective. With the PML (Q) nominee for PM Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali barely passing muster with a heterogeneous mix of votes (including that of 10 “patriots” from PPP-P), the battle shifted to the Provinces. With the PML (Q) and MMA having quite a majority respectively, the governance of Punjab and NWFP was never in doubt. The situation in Balochistan and Sindh Provinces is another story! MMA may have got the immediate edge in Balochistan by winning over the nationalist parties but the vital ground of Sindh (and with it the prize catch of the cash-rich port city of Karachi) has become a veritable quagmire. No party having a clear majority, it was either the PPP-P or the MQM that could lead a possible coalition of smaller parties or they could join together in a Provincial coalition opposed to the Centre. The smaller parties with the “swing vote” had different ideas, they thought it was their prerogative to name the Chief Minister. On that premise all possible permutations and combinations floundered and the Governor postponed the Sindh Assembly “Oath-Taking” Session indefinitely till matters got sorted out as to who had the clear mandate to govern. The possible options are mind-boggling enough to call into question the core character of the political parties in the fray, do they in fact have an ideology or are their ambitions confined only to coming to power by any means, fair and foul?

Maulana Fazlur Rahman has been living in the heady bliss that he was Ms Benazir’s first (and only) choice to be PM. That was conveyed not only directly after the elections but was repeated ad nauseam by Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan. Imagine the good Maulana’s seething anger when he discovered what everyone and his uncle already knew, she was only using him as a willing pawn to blackmail the military regime. Hell hath no greater fury than a Maulana scorned by a woman (and a politician at that), the PPP-P may well live to repent the games Mohtrama has been playing with the JUI (F) Chief’s emotions, more importantly, with his aspirations. Her scathing denunciation of MMA, a far cry removed from her stance availing at the end of October when the PPP-P and MMA were close to forging a coalition, was very ill-received by the MMA leaders. Keeping intact her normal posture of “doublespeak” for different audiences, Ms Benazir now feigns that she was always against the “fundamentalists”. The hard fact remains she was always ready to bed them politically as long as she got what she wanted, mainly that NAB charges against her husband and herself dropped. Since the military regime called her bluff (and it is believed Uncle Sam also showed annoyance over her evolving coalition plans), she has scrambled from one political option to another in trying to hold the Federal Regime hostage to her designs. Once Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was past the first post, PPP-P fell back on trying to hold their Sindh bastion.


Making the Federation Effective

The finest experiment in nationhood in its time came apart 24 years later in 1971, West Pakistan barely surviving as a truncated Pakistan. A myriad number of reasons turned this great adventure into a disaster, the major one was that the people of East Pakistan felt ignored and disparaged. During 1965 this isolation (“the defence of the East is in the West”), along with economic and political disparities and discrimination, perceived as well as real, became the bedrock for separatism. Economic reasons may have contributed heavily to bringing Pakistan down to its knees this time around, the overall political picture of inter-Provincial disharmony has assumed crisis proportions. When partners in any venture feel they are being shortchanged and their counterparts are insensitive to their needs, the process of dissolution of the union starts. In its own defence, the major partner then proceeds to blame the others for a lack of “patriotism”, “the last refuge of a scoundrel” (to quote Samuel Johnson).


Direct Vote and Democracy

The basis of democracy is that every individual has occasion to exercise his or her vote freely to choose individuals for a particular seat or post. This vote is not transferable and cannot be exercised by proxy. Given the basic concept of adult franchise, any indirect vote is bound to be controversial, particularly since it transfers the basic individual right of choice of electors of one constituency to another individual who then takes a solitary decision on behalf of others which may not be really representative. In third world countries where individuals are invariably more susceptible to the influences of power, money etc than in western countries, there is always the possibility that for various considerations the indirect vote may be cast against the actual aspirations of the basic unit of a democracy, the individual citizen. Therefore, it inculcates an element of corruption at its very inception. Moreover, it circumvents the process of a candidate’s accountability before the masses that is one of the basic premises of democracy.

The Federal structure in Pakistan is composed of the directly elected National Assembly and an indirectly elected Upper House called the Senate. Albeit peopled by some very fine men and women for the most part, the indirect elections to the Senate (each Province has equal number of seats with a number reserved for technocrats, etc) offers an opportunity for chicanery inasmuch as the Electoral College is composed of the members of the respective Provincial Assemblies (with Punjab having the maximum of 240 electors for 20 Senate seats i.e 12 electors can vote into office a Senator while at the other end of the scale Balochistan’s 45 electors vote also for 20 Senate seats, i.e. only 2 votes to get a Senator elected). While the Senate is supposedly a higher body than the National Assembly (NA), this lop-sided indirect elections to fill its seats contradicts its higher status, undercutting the basic principle of exercise of adult franchise to fill all electable slots in a democracy. It gives an inordinate advantage to those with money and/or influence to become members of the Upper House. Conceivably those who have made their money illegally and do not want to go through the exhaustive “accountability before the masses” process of a full fledged election campaign, can avoid the elections to the Provincial (PA) or National Assemblies (NA) and “purchase” the small number of necessary voters to get elected to the Senate by either giving “donations” to individual legislators or to the political party whose support they want. One should not forget that this concept of indirect vote was firmly rejected by the Pakistani populace in the form of Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s 80,000 Basic Democrats who formed an Electoral College to elect (Provincial and National) legislators, etc as well as the President. The Opposition to this concept stemmed from the fact that the masses were effectively disenfranchised by the indirect method and that the smaller number of elections could be influenced to cast their vote in particular manner by various means, some of them coercive in nature. The same principle must apply to the Senate, being a higher body than the National Assembly, it’s claim to legality can only be borne out if its members are directly elected by the populace. To give continuity to the democratic process, direct elections to the Senate, where members’ terms should only be of four years, can be held during the mid-term stage of the NA (and PA) elections (whose terms must also be shortened from five to four years as per Ms Benazir’s pre-election promise).


Economic Exploitation of the Coastal Areas – II

At Gwadar, a Belgian company is engaged in the construction of a Fish Harbour for US$ 45 million provided mostly under Belgian Grant/Soft Aid. A telephone and telegraph facility based on DOMSAT satellite has recently been inaugurated. The fish catch in the area will justify the size of the facilities, the harbour when constructed can also easily accommodate naval vessels, more importantly it can be easily expanded to cater for larger vessels. The works parameters may be expanded so that benefit is derived from present construction mobilisation. Placed just outside the Gulf, Gwadar has strategic importance, it is a natural staging port for the Gulf in case war between Iran and Iraq should ever break out again, a distinct possibility. Supertankers may not be able to go into the Gulf this time with Iranians better equipped to interdict them with naval forces.