House Passes Rohrabacher Amendment Tying Human Rights in Pakistan to U.S. Military Aid

Today, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-CA) amendment tying the Defense Department’s ability to give monetary aid to Pakistan’s military to its treatment of ethnic and religious minority groups was included in final passage of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014 by the House of Representatives.

The amendment requires the Secretary of Defense to certify that Pakistan is not using its military to “persecute minority groups for their legitimate and nonviolent political and religious beliefs.” The amendment specifically names the Balochi, Sindhi and Christian minorities, among others.

“This is a giant step forward for those victims of oppression in Pakistan,” said Rohrabacher. “For the first time their plight is being recognized and a policy is being established of not giving the Pakistani government the weapons to carry on their repression. This is the first time the plight of the Balochi and the Sindhi have been underscored in legislation that links support for Pakistan’s military to how they treat those minority groups.”

Read more » http://rohrabacher.house.gov/press-release/house-passes-rohrabacher-amendment-tying-human-rights-pakistan-us-military-aid

“No option” but to abide by PM’s decision on blasphemy: Sherry

By: AFP

ISLAMABAD: A liberal lawmaker on Thursday accused Pakistan’s prime minister of sabotaging efforts to reform blasphemy laws that have been widely condemned by rights groups.

“Appeasement of extremism is a policy that will have its blowback,” said Sherry Rehman, a lawmaker for the main ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

The former information minister petitioned parliament to reform the legislation in November after a Christian woman was sentenced to death, but the private member’s bill was never listed on parliament’s agenda.

Despite escalating international condemnation and the murder of politician Salman Taseer for backing reform, the government refuses to consider any amendment, bowing to protest from the nation’s powerful religious right-wing.

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Laws for language: If the British used Sindhi, why shouldn’t we, experts urge minister

By Z Ali

The bill called for using Sindhi for official correspondence and asked the National Assembly to grant it the status of a national language.

HYDERABAD: Encouraged by the consensus reached in the National Assembly over the 20th constitutional amendment, Sindhi writers and scholars lobbied for Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi and Pushto to be acknowledged as national languages.

The representatives of the Sindhi Adabi Sangat (SAS), Sindhi Language Authority, Sindh Democratic Forum, author Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo and others met with the federal law and parliamentary affairs minister, Maula Bux Chandio, on Wednesday. They asked the minister to fight for national status for Sindhi in the National Assembly.

Dr Fehmida Hussain, the chairperson of the Sindhi Language Authority, asked the minister to form a language commission comprising officials, writers and scholars for the languages. However, Chandio, despite being receptive to their demands, expressed a lack of optimism about the passage of the bill in the near future.

“The federation is rife with misgivings,” he told the delegation. “First it will correct the structure before such a bill can sail through.”

The SAS launched a three-week long campaign from February 1 for the implementation of a bill passed unanimously by the Sindh Assembly in 1972. The organisations’ leaders, Mehrunissa Larik, Amin Lakho and Zaib Nizamani, want the enforcement of a 1972 bill. It called for using Sindhi for official correspondence and asked the National Assembly to grant it the status of a national language. “All the major languages of the provinces should be given national status,” said Larik. “Even the Britishers used Sindhi as an official language,” she claimed. The SAS will organise an event on February 21, which is International Mother Language Day, to press for their demands.

The National Assembly’s standing committee rejected a similar bill in May 2011, introduced by former MNA Marvi Memon. The names of Pakistan Peoples Party MNA Saeed Ahmed Zafar and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA Iqbal Qadri have surfaced with objections to the bill.

But Chandio said that the bill lay with the constitutional committee. The standing committee on law and justice had scrutinised the bill. “It will get through,” he said, but did not say when. Some members in the Standing Committee opposed the bill, he added, but did not name them. ….

Read more » The Express Tribune

We salute our sisters of Sindhyani Tehreek. – By: Kalavanti Raja

A successful shutter down strike observed by Sindh Nationalists Parties, the call was given by an alliance of Sindh nationalist parties, ‘Sindh Bachayo Committee (SBC), against the 20th Constitutional Amendment draft bill which was tabled in the National (Federal) Assembly by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

In Hyderabad, the workers of Sindh Bachayo Committee took out a rally from Hyder Chowk to SP Chowk, during that the protesters clashed with the police and the same situation was occurred in Karachi when a crowd of  ethnic elements (gundas) on Motor cycles  tried to stop the marching Sindhiyani Tahreek activists on M.A. Jinnah road but the brave Sindhiyani Tahreek workers handled the situation … Two women activists injured.  In other parts of Sindh nearly 117 workers were detained in the crackdown operation against Sindh nationalist parties by the police.

Received via email.

Nationalists shut Sindh to protest 20th Amendment

* Say parliament not authorised to form new provinces

By Asghar Azad

KARACHI: A complete shutter-down and wheel-jamed strike was observed in Sindh, excluding a few localities of Karachi, on Saturday.

The strike call was given by an alliance of Sindhi nationalist parties, ‘Sindh Bachayo Committee (SBC), against the 20th Constitutional Amendment bill which was tabled in the National Assembly by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and was approved for discussion. The nationalists feared the bill was aimed at dividing Sindh.

The nationalist parties, including Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, Jeay Sindh Tahreek, Sindh United Party, Sindh National Front, Sindh Taraqqi Pasand Party, Awami Tehreek and National People’s Party condemned the proposed amendment. Professional bodies, human rights activists and writers’ organisations had announced their full support for the shutter-down strike as no public transport was available, causing severe difficulties for commuters to carry out their day-to-day work.

A protest demonstration was held in Hyderabad while roads were also blocked at various places.

All business activities came to a grinding halt in big and small cities of the province, including Sukkur, Nawabshah, Larkana, Khairpur, Dadu, Naushahro Feroze, Moro, Faiz Ganj, Gambat, Ranipur, Rohiri, Ghotki, Pir Jo Goth, Wada Machoon, Babarlo, Therrhi, Kumb, Padedan, Thatta, Golarrchi, Choohar Jamali, Badin, Fazil Rahou, Talhar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Mirpurkhas, Mithi, Islam Kot, Sakrand, Dolat Pur and Umer Kot.

The strike was also observed in various localities of Karachi, including Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Gadop Town, Gulshan-e-Hadeed, Bhens Colony, Abdullah Goth, Pipri, Sindhi Goth, Gaghar Phattak, Chakra Goth, Bilal Colony, Gulshan-e-Mehran, Mehran Town, Bhittai Colony Korangi, Sachal Goth, Safora Goth, Mosmyat, Memon Goth, Liyari, Baloch Goth and Baloch Colony of Orangi, Malir, Maripur, Bhitiabad, Dhani Bux Khaskhekli Goth, Rashidi Goth, Razaq Abad, Peer Goth and Bin Qasim Colony.

Workers and supporters of the nationalist parties staged rallies and sit-ins at several places, including Indus and national highways, Sehwan Bypass, Khairpur Bypass, Rohiri Bypass, Larkana-Khairpur Bridge Bypass, Faiz Ganj and Hyderabad.

Meanwhile, SBC convener Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah said that the people had given their verdict against the amendment and it was not acceptable to them in any shape. He appreciated business and traders’ communities for cooperating and participating in the strike.

Talking to Daily Times, Shah said that “the makers of the 1973 constitution, though complied with the first provision of the Lahore Resolution that there would be four provinces in the new federation and did not confer any power on parliament to create new provinces, but they violated the second provision of the Lahore Resolution, which says the federal government could only be given four subjects including, defence, foreign affairs, currency and customs”.

“We can safely say that though the constitutions of 1956 and 1962 were based on total violation of the two provisions of the Lahore Resolution, the 1973 constitution fulfills the first part of the Lahore Resolution of giving protection to the unity and integrity of provinces,” he said, adding that it gave the federal government more subjects than envisaged in 1940 resolution. Shah said, “Again an attempt is being made by centralists to violate the Lahore Resolution by giving parliament the power to create more provinces.” It may be mentioned that the MQM has submitted a proposal in the National Assembly for the formation of new provinces in the country.

Courtesy: Daily Times

Sindh Assembly smells conspiracy behind 20th draft bill of amendments in constitution for creation of new provinces

SA thumbs down to any change

By: Ramzam Chandio

KARACHI – The Sindh Assembly on Friday sent a clear signal not to accept any amendment in Article 239(4) of the Constitution, relating to two third votes of provincial legislature mandatory for altering/creating new province within any province.

The law minister while supporting the proposed resolution of a lawmaker from NPP promised before the House that the resolution would be taken up in the Assembly for discussion on the next Monday. The Sindh Assembly, which met at 11:30hours, against schedule of 10:00am, with Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, consumed over ten minutes on arguments and counter arguments on a request of Masroor Ahmed Jatoi from NPP, who wanted to move a resolution out of turn, opposing any amendment in Article 239 (4) of Constitution. After question-hour session, NPP MPA Jatoi, stood on his feet and urged the chair to allow him to move a resolution out of turn. The proposed resolution of Mr Jatoi was also distributed among the media persons in press gallery, carried signatures of lawmakers of the ruling PPP, PML-F, NPP and ANP. ….

Read more » The Nation

Sindh Assembly: MQM’s move for creation of more provinces opposed

By Hafeez Tunio

KARACHI: Many in the Sindh Assembly suspected that Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) initiative for the creation of more provinces in the country was a ploy ultimately designed to divide Sindh. And these fears dominated the session on Friday when a majority of the members decried the constitutional amendment bill moved by the MQM, seeking to carve up new federating units in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In a rare show of unanimity, the public representatives belonging to different parties also opposed any amendment in Article 239(4) of the constitution as suggested by the MQM. The constitutional provision makes the consent of a province mandatory for the creation of a new province.

“No province can be created without two-thirds majority vote of the assembly concerned. This move may lead to a break-up of Sindh in future. We will not allow it. It is against the provincial autonomy,” said Masroor Jatoi of the National Peoples Party (NPP) who wanted to move a resolution on the issue. ….

Read more » The Express Tribune

Coup d’états

By Javed Ahmed Qazi

The other day I heard Chief Justice of Pakistan, saying in his speech to the Bar in Rawalpindi, that Article 6 of the 1973 Constitution is very clear and it is for military coup which is treason against the state and for doer of such act, death sentence is an award of punishment. Eighteenth Amendment brings even more to it: No Court can validate it. …

Read more » Javed Qazi

Some constructive work by Pakistani Parliament – Congratulation to women of Pakistan & congratulation to all those parliamentarians who supported this women protection bill

NA passes women protection bill

By: Javaid-ur-rahman

ISLAMABAD – The National Assembly Tuesday unanimously passed ‘The Prevention of Anti-Women Practices (Criminal Amendment Bill) Bill 2010’ to prohibit certain practices leading to exploitation and discrimination against womenfolk including marriage with the Holy Quran, giving a female in marriage or otherwise in Badla-e-Sulh, Wani or Sawara and depriving women of inheriting property.

The bill moved by MNA Donya Aziz was succeeded to get clearance in the third attempt, as the bill has twice been deferred in the last NA session (35th session) of private member day. The four clauses of the anti-women practices bill had been passed after thorough discussion. …

Read more » The Nation

Pakistan Intellectual Forum hails US Congressmen for approving funds for Sindhi language programming

PIF hails US Congressmen for approving funds for Sindhi language programming

ISLAMABAD, July 27 (APP): Islamabad-based Sindhi writers, intellectuals and broadcasters have hailed the US Congressmen for their unanimous consent to the Amendment to Foreign Affairs bill for Sindhi language Programing. In a literary meeting held here in a local hotel under the auspices of Pakistan Intellectual Forum (PIF) Islamabad chapter on Wednesday, the writers expressed profound thanks to the US Congress’s Foreign Affairs Committee that has approved the funds made available to the Voice of America, $1.5 million be used only for Sindhi language programming. On July 21, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) offered an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

On behalf of the people of Sindh, we the Islamabad-based intellectuals, writers, poets, researcher and linguists would like to express our sincere gratitude to the Congressman Brad Sherman and others for their tribute to the Sindhi language and unanimous consent to the amendment” said Hashim Abro of Pakistan Intellectual Forum ( PIF), Islamabad.

Hashim Abro said that this historic amendment reflects America’s unshakable commitment to promote one of the richest languages of the world which has produced a plethora of poets and proponents of harmony, peace and tolerance.

Above all, it is the language of sanctity, sagacity, intellect, newness, dynamism, depth and humility. Sindhis are born sufis and moderate. These are global citizens and treat humanity as “One Family” and who keep the humanity above all religions because they believe that to love an to be loved, to respect and to be respected is the key concern of all religions.

Dr. Hyder Sindhi said that the Sindhis in Sindh, Balochistan, and in other parts of the Pakistan and the globe regard Brad Sherman and other Congressmen not only as their well-wishers and promoters of Sindhi language but “Messiah’ for their language.The people of Sindh and Sindhi diaspora will always remain indebted to them throughout the ages.

Dr. Khadim Hussain Soomro, a noted researcher on peace and harmony said, “The Sindhis are truly grateful to the US Congressman, particularly, Brad Sherman and Mr. Rohrabacher, for this lofty move. We can say only a big “Thank You’ to US Congressman for their momentous move and futuristic vision”.

Around two hundred writers, intellectuals, broadcasters, social and human rights activists, lawyers and others attended the meeting and all of them were all appreciative of this noble gesture of US Congressman.

Courtesy: → Associated Press Of Pakistan

Sherman Amendment to Foreign Affairs bill for Sindhi Language Programming

In a House Foreign Affairs Committee markup on July 21, 2011, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) offered an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012. The amendment required that, of the funds made available to Voice of America, $1.5 million be used only for Sindhi language programming.

- Foreign Affairs Committee – Unofficial Transcript

July 21st, 2011

Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen: Mr. Sherman hold on a second before we recognize you. I think we may have to tinker with your amendment a little bit.

Congressman Sherman: I would ask unanimous consent to amend my amendment to read as follows and this is inspired by Mr. Rohrabacher. Of the funds authorized to be appropriated to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, one and a half million, big discount here, is authorized to be appropriated only for Sindhi language communication. Such funds may not be used for any other purpose. Do I have unanimous consent?

Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen: Without objection the amendment has been amended and approved. So we are on the Mr. Sherman amendment as amended. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes to explain his amendment.

Congressman Sherman: For many years the Pakistani government has focused Pakistan on just using one language, …, when in fact Sindhi is spoken by tens of millions of people. We need to reach out to the people of the Sindh province and others who speak the Sindhi language. For the most part these are people who profess a moderate form of Islam and yet they are not hearing from us in their native language. There is probably no country more important to us in our efforts against terrorism and extremism than is Pakistan. We cannot just reach the Pakistani people in the Urdu language. We cannot ignore the southern third of the country. I have received reports from Voice of America that they could begin communicating in the Sindh language if they were to devote one and half million dollars to this. Now I would think that in their three quarters of a billion dollar budget, that they could find the funds necessary to do what might be the most important part of our Voice of America efforts and that is to reach out to the people of Pakistan.

I would also comment that if I can secure support for this amendment it will not only be the last amendment I offer today but this will be the last speech I give today in this room.

There are many things the Voice of America does but the fact that the country that is probably most important to us from a national security perspective at this time, we are broadcasting only in one language and we are ignoring the southern third of the country. I think a million and half dollars a year to correct that is a good decision for this committee and this congress to make and with that I yield back.

Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen: Thank you Mr. Sherman. Based on the fact that you are a level, intelligent person who is trustworthy as a boy scout it seems like a very good amendment and I do not see any opposition from our side and we are prepared to accept the amendment. So with that, hearing no further request for recognition, the question occurs on the Sherman amendment. All those in favor say, “Aye”, all opposed, “No”. In the opinion of the chair the Ayes have it and the amendment is agreed to.

Source: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, July 22, 2011. → YouTube

Nationalists seek ‘all provincial subjects’ for Sindh

KARACHI: Claiming that the 18th constitutional amendment has robbed the provinces of their rights and the centre has become stronger at the cost of the provinces, Sindhi nationalists have demanded that the centre surrender all provincial subjects to the provinces.

This claim was made by Sindh United Party President Syed Jalal Mehmoud Shah and the Sindh Dost Democratic Party chief Barrister Zamir Ghumro at a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday. Other nationalists leaders who were present on the occasion included Shah Muhammad Shah, Dr Dodo Mehri, Ghulam Shah and Shahnaz Shah.

Reading out from a joint statement, Mr Shah said the parliamentary committee on the 18th amendment on the pretext of abolition of the concurrent list had taken away purely provincial subjects, including electricity, professions such as medical and engineering, and criminal law for the first time and had increased the entries of the federal lists from 67 to 74. …

Read more → DAWN.COM

US House panel OKs defense bill, limits Pakistan aid

WASHINGTON: The House Appropriations Committee has approved a defense spending bill that imposes limits on US aid to Pakistan and creates a special bipartisan group to review the US role in Afghanistan.

The panel gave the go-ahead to the bill on a voice vote Tuesday. The legislation would provide $530 billion for the Defense Department and $119 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill is $9 billion less than President Barack Obama requested.

The bill would withhold 75 per cent of the $1.1 billion in US aid to Pakistan until the administration reports to Congress on how it would spend the money. Reflecting the frustration with Pakistan’s effort in battling terrorism, the committee adopted an amendment that gives Congress even more power to review the spending.

Courtesy: DAWN.COM

Not much is going to change in Pakistan – same hopelessness, where only mighty will prevail and prosper

- Stback on HEC devolution is a sign that not much is going to change in Pakistan

By Khalid Hashmani

It quite disappointing that the present Government surrendered to the pressure from vested interests and decided not to implement an important provisions of Pakistan’s constitution.  As I explained in my last e-mail on this subject, the constitution does not allow the central government to have any role in education (Higher or lower) matters except to be involved in standards for higher education, research and technical institutions and foreign ministry related matters pertaining to foreign students in Pakistan and Pakistani students in foreign countries. 

I had thought that there was a chance that return of democracy and parliamentary rule will lead to a negotiated end of denial of rights of Sindh, Balochistan and others. But, this is not to be and I am sure many of us who fought for the return of democracy are wondering what should be done next? The undue pressure from the un-elected and those who benefited from the current faulty Higher Education Commission (HEC) system joined hands to force the Pakistani government in making this terrible decision. I have no doubt in my mind that this short sighted step is going to have long term repercussions as many would conclude that the vested interests are too strong to defeat no matter what.

I find an element of truth in what a friend said few years ago when I argued that Sindhis could get a fair deal. He said “There is no use to expect much good from an arrangement that has failed Sindhis for so many times.

Incidentally, it was claimed that Higher Education Commission (HEC) only gives scholarships to those who secure admission to world’s top 50 institutions. I took the list of 61 candidates who were approved for scholarships around November 10, 2010 http://www.hec.gov.pk/InsideHEC/Divisions/HRD/Scholarships/ForeignScholarships/ISSIP/Pages/results_16_meeting.aspx) and compared it to top 100 schools listed on (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/). I found that a substantial majority of those approved did not have admission in any of the top 100 universities/colleges. Only the intended universities of 17 out of 60 (the intended university of one student is not listed) were on the top 100 list.

I feel that this setback on the HEC devolution is a sign that not much is going to change in Pakistan – same hopelessness, where only mighty will prevail and prosper and the weaker will continue to come on loosing end.

Our textbooks and the lies they teach

By Raza Rumi

Due to the 18th Amendment, a momentous shift in Pakistan’s governance arrangements is taking place through a politically mediated and largely consensual manner. The federal government is being trimmed and 10 ministries have already been devolved to the provinces. A key development pertains to the devolution of education — lock, stock and barrel — to the provinces. Most notably, the odious era of setting poisonous, centralised curricula in the name of a ‘martial’ nationalism is finally over. Whether the past practices of turning Pakistan into a jihad project will end is uncertain, unless the provinces take the initiative and reverse the regrettable trajectory of the past.

Pakistani textbooks have preached falsehoods, hatred and bigotry. They have constructed most non-Muslims, especially Hindus, as evil and primordial enemies, glorified military dictatorships and omitted references to our great betrayal of the Bengali brothers and sisters who were the founders and owners of the Pakistan movement. It is time to correct these wrongs. ….

Read more : The Express Tribune

A political revolution

By Rasul Bakhsh Rais

The passage of the 18th Amendment has set into motion, a remarkable, though slow, political revolution in restructuring Pakistan’s polity. This is far more momentous than restoring the parliamentary character of the constitution, or even granting provincial autonomy. The word autonomy cannot capture the true letter and spirit of the new federalism that is unfolding before us. Rather, it is about remodelling Pakistan’s political system according to a new principle of distribution of power, with the provinces as new centres of authority, power and resources.

Thinking of provinces as new centres of power and laying something down into the constitution to make them powerful, runs counter to both, the colonial tradition of supervising political evolution, and the centralised state and nation-building strategy followed for the past six decades. It goes to the credit of political parties and their leadership that they have realised that the old ways of governing Pakistan have failed and they needed to give a greater part of the power and resources of the centre, which had grown arrogant, paternalistic and insensitive to the provinces.

This structural change in the political order has created new conditions in which some groups and sections are bound to lose, while others will make gains. Who loses and who gains is an issue that will greatly impact the ongoing process of shifting power to the provinces, as the old, deeply entrenched political and bureaucratic groups fight to the last to save their little turfs and fiefdoms. In our case, the federal bureaucracy is the loser, as it cannot hope to rule the provinces under the guise of national integration, solidarity and security anymore. It will take a great deal of internal reflection on the part of the federal bureaucracy, as well as time, to adjust to the power shift. …

Read more : The Express Tribune

Sindh should follow Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s example and announce formation of Sindh HEC

By Khalid Hashmani

It is time for the Government of Sindh to immediately announce creation of a Higher Education Commission of Sindh (HECS) and appoint a suitable person to head the HECS. Too much time has already been wasted in trying to protect an institution that has failed Sindh, Balochistan and the rest of country. Any hesitation on the part of the remaining provinces to form their higher education bodies will simply prolong the delay in the implementation of 18th Amendment. The current managers of HEC should stop their delaying tactics and work for an orderly devolution of HEC in the larger interest of the country before people of small provinces loose their trust and hopes in the democratic process that allows vested interests to sabotage duly passed constitutional amendments. If the centralization of HEC is maintained, history will record it a violation similar to the tyrannical actions of General Zia-ul-Haq and General Musharraf who violated the constitution so violently.

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Afraid of devolution? -by I.A Rehman

- WONDERS never cease. In the second decade of the 21st century, the transfer of power to the units of a federation has been made controversial! Efforts are being made to help the centre retain the privileges that rightfully belong to the provinces.

No student of politics will deny that Pakistan broke up in 1971 largely as a result of the policies designed to make the centre strong at the expense of provincial rights and aspirations. Nor can anyone forget that the failure to restore to the provinces what has always been due to them poses the greatest threat to the state’s integrity today.

We are also familiar with the arguments employed while calling for making the hands of one ruler or another strong. It was said the country faced so many threats that a centrally organised security edifice alone could preserve its integrity. The centre alone had the mental and physical wherewithal to achieve economic progress. In an Islamic state there could be only one centre of power and Pakistan had a special reason to crush centrifugal forces and fissiparous tendencies which were being fanned by the enemies of the state — democrats, secularists, advocates of the nationalities’ rights, separatists, et al.

For six decades, the politics of Pakistan revolved around the federal question. Any stratagem that could prevent the state from becoming a federation was in order — the fiction of parity, the abolition of provinces in the western part of the original state, the imposition of martial law and the state’s declaration of war against the majority nationality and the smallest nationality both. No wonder almost all democratic movements in the country have had their origins in the federating units’ struggle for self-government.The central demand was that the centre should keep only three or four subjects such as foreign affairs, external security, currency and communications. All other subjects — internal security, local government, planning, education and social welfare — were to be restored to the provinces.

It is in this context that one should examine the national consensus on re-designing the polity by meeting some of the main demands of the federating units. The endorsement of the 18th Amendment by all shades of opinion in parliament is nothing short of a miracle. It not only marks a giant stride towards realising the promise of the 1973 constitution, in several respects it surpasses the 1973 consensus.

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No Surprise, they can deny the 18th constitutional amendment but they cannot hide themselves from the people of oppressed constituent units of Pakistan

Dar resigns as deputy chief of commission

By Amir Wasim

ISLAMABAD: In what appears to be a face-saving move, Senator Ishaq Dar of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N resigned on Wednesday as deputy chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on Implementation of 18th Amendment.

In a five-page letter to Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, Senator Dar cited differences over the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and transfer of assets and services of federal employees to the provinces as the main reasons for his decision.

Last week, the PML-N senator found himself in a difficult situation when reporters took him on during a news conference with the chairman of the commission, Senator Raza Rabbani, for defending the planned HEC devolution which was against the stance of his party. “I am not responsible for everybody in the party,” he said at the time. …

Read more : DAWN

Bravo Raza Rabani: WARNING from Senator Raza Rabani for those who are creating hurdles in Provincial Autonomy

HEC ‘storm in a teacup’ spills over in NA

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Pre-emptive politics. Conspiracy against provincial autonomy. Attempt to degrade parliament.

Such angry comments came from lawmakers as what Senator Raza Rabbani saw as only “a storm in a teacup” over mainly the financial devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to provinces spilled over in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

And when he received an apparently incomplete information during his speech in the lower house that the Supreme Court had issued a stay order against the planned devolution, Mr Rabbani, Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination and Chairman of the Parliamentary Commission for the Implementation of the Eighteenth Amendment, remarked: “Probably we are writing a new history to stop parliament from legislation.” …

Read more : DAWN

Over centralized HEC Hurt Sindhis by Denying them

by Saghir Shaikh

Affirmative action is needed in Pakistan. Sindhis have been historically discriminated. All affairs involving money and distribution or resources must be governed by provincial resources. If implemented on just basis and if Sindh and Sindhis get their due share in resources, we will be much ahead.

Javaid Laghari is a great son of Sindh and has done a lot for Sindh and Sindhis and overall academic situation in Sindh and Pakistan.

However, we support the breakup of Higher Education Commission (HEC). Any structure under federal command – supported by constitution – means inequitable share to Sindh and Baluchistan, that is sad reality of status quo. Yes ‘merit’ has value in different context.

Pakistan historically deprives Sindh by stealing it resources, discriminating its rural population for decades since its inception creating almost an economic apartheid among South and North (of Pakistan). How can we expect that in this apartheid system rural folks are going to compete!

Local Sindh government will be corrupt and yes it will be manipulated from …, there is no doubt about it – these are valid arguments and I have my take on it. But please do not use the argument of merit and justice with Sindhis. And obviously criticism on HEC is never about its chief, but the inherent limitation of centralized illegal federal structure. If I was made HEC chair today I will not be able to keep justice to its spirit! Because system is unjust to its core!

Anyway, let us hope that HEC and all other institutions get transferred to provinces and than we can start a new struggle on improving our own house.

One caution – devolution does not mean we will get our due share from Islamabad (Punjab). That is another Himalayan task to get a fair share in terms of finance!

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, 12 April, 2011.

Why Islamabad and Punjab are against the devolution of HEC?

by Dr Azhar A. Shah

Federation of All Pakistan Universities Academic Staff (FAPUASA) held its two day annual meeting on April 9-10, 2011 and discussed the devolution of HEC. According to Dawn, “.. the federation had failed to take a firm stand so far because its Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan chapters were in favour of HEC`s devolution, while Punjab, AJK and Islamabad had opposed the move. Therefore, its office-bearers had decided to wait for the Supreme Court`s ruling” (http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/11/prime-minister-has-shelved-hec-devolution-for-now.html).

Though I am not aware of the bylaws of FAPUASA but it seems an open breach of the democratic rights of its three constituent units (Sindh, KP, Balochistan) whose voices are subdued by its single chapter and its territories (Islamabad and Kashmir). Instead of supporting the voice of three federating units, the FAPUASA has given weightage and honor to an appeal that is against the wishes of the three provinces! This act is by no means acceptable to us and we the faculty members of these three federating units/ states/ provinces demand an official apology from FAPUASA along with declaration of strong support for the devolution of HEC with immediate effect.

We are aware of the history of our country and we know it very well why Islamabad and Punjab academicians are against the devolution! Please stop glorifying and defending this discriminatory organization and don’t make hurdles in the implementation of the 18th constitutional amendment passed by federal assembly.

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 11, 2011.

HEC issue to end up in the Supreme Court

By Zubair Shah

KARACHI: It is true that after the passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment, the Pakistani federation is inching towards the constitutional sketch made public in the Muslim League’s famous 1940 Lahore Resolution. However, this journey is not without a tough resistance by the country’s entrenched pro status quo centripetal forces, who would like to see a strong centre at the expense of federating units. Nothing highlights this phenomenon better than the drama around the planned devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) announced recently.

Soon after the announcement, a smear campaign was launched by centripetal forces, who have been advocating and supporting the status quo based on numerous technical and legal grounds with apocalyptic predictions. …

Read more : Daily Times

Participants of dialogue advocate HEC devolution

PESHAWAR: Participants of a dialogue here Sunday advocated devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) to the provinces.

They resolved to resist any hurdle in the way of devolving power to the federating units and said opposing the 18th Amendment was betrayal of the Constitution as the amendment had been passed by the elected parliament.

Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) had organised the dialogue on ‘18th Amendment and Institutional Arrangements at Provincial Level after Devolution of Higher Education Commission’ attended by people from different walks of life including professors, doctors, activists of NGOs and representatives of political parties. …

Read more : THE NEWS

Let us strengthen Pakistan

- Let us Unite to Uphold 18th Amendment including Devolution of HEC

By Khalid Hashmani

As more and more information comes out in the waning days of Higher Education Commission (HEC), most Sindhis are shocked to know that out of ten thousands (10,000) foreign and domestic scholarships that have been distributed by HEC so far, Sindh received only 892 (http://ejang.jang.com.pk/4-7-2011/Karachi/pic.asp?picname=99.gif). This amounts to about one third of the number that Sindh would have received even if the NFC award rules were applied. There is no province/ state or ethnic group anywhere in the world that has suffered as much as Sindhis have when it comes to scholarship opportunities in Pakistan. Instead of defending an institution that has denied Sindhis their due share in educational opportunities for so many years, we should be demanding trial of those officials who were responsible for denying Sindh its due share in scholarships. It is doubtful that an agency of such dreadful performance should even be given a role of standard setting and quality assurance. The Government of Pakistan should seriously consider creating a new agency with proper representation from each province/ state to oversee the jurisdictions that 18th Amendment allows at the federal level.

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Provincial Higher Education Commission to be formed in Sindh’

SINDH – KARACHI: Preparations have started for the formation of a provincial Higher Education Commission (HEC) in Sindh. Sindh Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq stated this here on Thursday. He was of the view that it would be run in an effective manner and on the pattern of the “ Higher Education Commission (HEC).” Pir Mazhar said that eminent educationalists of Sindh would be made members of the provincial Higher Education Commission.

Courtesy: Daily Times

Misunderstood: HEC’s devolution — I

By Dr Pervez Tahir

These are interesting times. We just heard the heart-rending narrative on the dismal state of elementary education. Before we could declare the prescribed educational emergency, there are warnings of an impending disaster in higher education if the HEC is devolved to the provinces. The provinces, it is said, have made a mess of elementary education and the fate of higher education will be no different. It is hard to understand the argument involved here. Should all education then be assigned to the federal government? If provinces are nothing but mess makers, why devolve anything to them. The celebration over the unanimous passage of the Eighteenth Amendment was completely uncalled for.

The constitutional position is quite clear though. Before the Amendment, the subject of ‘higher education’ was not mentioned in any of the legislative lists. …

Read more : The Express Tribune

Devolution of HEC supported

PESHAWAR: The academia, civil society and youth from different parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Fata on Thursday through a resolution supported the devolution of Higher Education Commission (HEC) under the 18th Constitutional Amendment.

The resolution was unanimously passed by the representatives of various organisations and institutions during a conference arranged by Bacha Khan Trust Educational Foundation (BKTEF). …

Read more : The News

Response to Prof Hoodbohy’s article on HEC Devolution

by Azhar Ali Shah

Prof Hoodbohy has contributed a piece titled “Should HEC Live or Die?”. First off, the title of his article indicates the limitedness of a nuclear scientist to think only in terms of life and death in a traditional way! For heavens sake HEC is not going to die! It is going through reformation (mitosis) to give birth to more HECs that could better serve our country as per requirements of our constitution and as per needs of our communities. Central bureaucrats and some academicians having inherited military mindset and others having undue fears are playing their tricks to stop this reformation and keep what they term as ‘their brilliant organization’ confined to the area of Islamabad. Moving this organization to provincial level would destroy the higher education and leave us in shambles! For Prof Hoodbhoy it is akin to death of HEC if it is devolved at this time! I would like to get my words recorded that if HEC is not devolved at this time (as per suggestion of Dr Hoodbohy) it will never ever get devolved in our life times. It is not only the current but the future generations of our country that will suffer from this centralization. But according to Javed Malik’s perception centralization might be good for Dr Hoodbhoy (please click here to read Prof. Hoodbohy’s article)!

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 8, 2011.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa supports HEC devolution

KP supports HEC devolution – by Yousaf Ali

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has dispelled the impression that it was against the devolution of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), saying a lobby has become active to create hurdles in the implementation of 18th Amendment by getting baseless reports published in the media.

Talking to The News, spokesman for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and chairman Overseeing Committee on Devolution Mian Iftikhar Hussain said the HEC devolution was part of the 18th Amendment and its non-implementation would be tantamount to violating the constitution. …

Read more : The News

Pakistan will have up to eight national languages

NA bill proposes eight `national languages`

By Raja Asghar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will have up to eight national languages — not just Urdu — if a private bill introduced in the National Assembly on Tuesday without any government objection is passed by parliament as a constitutional amendment.

The introduction of the long-pending and potentially divisive bill came after the government said it had no objection to the process, but there was no immediate indication if the ruling Pakistan People`s Party (PPP) would actually back the draft, most of whose 22 authors are its members, with Nawab Mohammad Yusuf Talpur on the top of the list, along with some well-known members of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q. …

Read more : DAWN

Flight of Reason – by Aamer Ahmed Khan

We published two photo galleries on BBC’s Urdu website last Friday. One on the Jamaat-e-Islami’s youth wing Shabab-e-Milli’s tribute to Mumtaz Qadri’s father in Rawalpindi and the other on the candlelit vigil in Lahore in memory of the slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.

As expected, comments started to pour in almost instantly. The most telling among them simply said: “Please compare the crowd in the two, for every Taseer mourner, there are at least 50 Qadri supporters.” If nothing else, it says a lot about the state of siege in which liberal opinion finds itself, as more and more people flock behind Mr Qadri, a cold-blooded killer who had been painstakingly planning Taseer’s murder for weeks before he struck.

Irrespective of the number of people who gathered for the vigil in Lahore, I am stunned at their courage in standing up to a crazed mob that neither understands its religion nor the man who brought it to them. It is a mob of moral cheats that has become religiously, politically, intellectually and morally so bankrupt that it seems to have convinced itself that its only salvation lies in baying for innocent blood.

Let us give ourselves some idea of how courageous the dozens who flocked to the vigil in Lahore really are. Since the glowing tribute paid to Qadri by lawyers at his first court appearance, we have been trying to contact the lawyer leadership that spearheaded the civil society movement only three years ago to bring down General Musharraf’s dictatorship. In that movement, millions around the world saw the seeds of a politics that Pakistan has desperately been waiting for all its life — a politics that flows from the combined intellect of the mobile middle class instead of dynastic politics, hereditary constituencies and endemic corruption.

Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed, Aitzaz Ahsan, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Justice (retd) Tariq Mahmood became household names as tens of thousands of people rallied behind them wherever they went. For weeks, no political talk show in the country was considered complete without at least one of them in the chair. Since Taseer’s murder, they simply seemed to have vanished into thin air.

We finally managed to get through to two of them: one simply said that we are free to call him a coward if we want to but he doesn’t want to comment on the issue at all. The other one went even further: he said he would not even allow us to report that he was contacted for his opinion on the issue.

Predictably, Asma Jahangir was the honourable exception who not only spoke in detail about the atrocity against Taseer but was candid and unambiguous in her criticism of the legal fraternity’s sudden gush for a killer. But then, one has always known her to be one of the bravest women in the country.

Which brings to mind another brave woman who dared to bring a bill to the National Assembly aimed at amending some of the more draconian provisions of a law that has spawned nothing but injustice in the quarter century of its existence. Our crazed mob has distributed pamphlets advocating that she must meet the same fate as Mr Taseer. I am proud to have worked for her at Herald for six years. She was one of the bravest editors I know. Today, she has been forced into abandoning her public life by the tyranny of bloodthirsty criminals masquerading as religious zealots.

President Asif Ali Zardari’s administration has already surrendered to these criminals. It is pointless to expect him to fight this battle. However unfortunate as it may be for the liberals, they do not have the luxury to follow suit. They have to go on fighting even if their battle is far more dangerous than the one Pakistan has been fighting in its tribal areas for the last 10 years.

Courtesy: http://www.columnspk.com/flight-of-reason-by-aamer-ahmed-khan/

Bangladesh court bans religion in politics

DHAKA (AFP) – Bangladesh’s dozens of political parties must drop Islam from their name and stop using religion when on the campaign trail following a court ruling, the country’s law minister said Monday.

The Supreme Court on Sunday upheld an earlier ruling by the High Court from 2005 throwing out the fifth amendment of the constitution, which had allowed religion-based politics to flourish in the country since the late 1970s.

“All politics based on religion are going to be banned as per the original constitution,” Shafique Ahmed told AFP. The verdict does not affect constitutional amendments that made Islam the Muslim majority nation’s state religion in 1988 and incorporated a Quranic verse in the constitution. …

Read more : The Nation