Making the hard decisions to set our house in order

By Najmuddin A Shaikh

Last week, I had expressed hope that in the coming days we would make the hard decisions needed to prevent our country from sliding into anarchy and chaos. We would not then remain the country to which Muammar Qaddafi would point as an example of what could happen to Libya if his dictatorial regime was brought to an end.

Developments during the past week have not, to say the least, been encouraging. First we had the budget, in which no genuine effort seems to have been made to raise the tax base or to address impediments — energy shortages among others — and yet we have concluded that our deficit will remain under control and that growth will have an upward trajectory. Are we going to continue to go down the path of foreign aid dependency and have a government ‘of the elite by the elite and for the elite’ that taxes the poor and the now dwindling middle class mercilessly to nourish the ‘fat cats’ in the ranks of the bureaucracy and the political establishment? Can we not levy direct taxes that would bring the tax-to-GDP ratio to at least 15 per cent? Can we not spend more on education and health? Can we not stop treating the defence budget as beyond question? …

Read more : The Express Tribune

Congressman Burton writes to President Zardari

Washington: A letter by Honorable Congressman Dan Burton, Member of Congress, to President Asif Ali Zardari about enforced disappearances and other forms of unlawful detention in Pakistan.

Congressman Burton particularly mentioned the disappearance of Mr. Muzaffar Bhutto, who disappeared since February this year.

Through his inquiries, Congressman Burton came to know that some intelligence personnel were involved in Mr. Bhutto’s disappearance.

The congressman expressed his concern over human rights violation against Sindhis and the Baloch and called upon President Zardari to take some measures to put human dignity at high.

He urged the president to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances as Pakistan could improve its human face among the comity of nations where human rights are respected.

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, 9th June, 2011.

What is wrong with the military?

by Dr. Manzur Ejaz

Feeling the political heat from the public and some politicians, Pakistan’s military chief, Pervaiz Kiyani, has hit back accusing that this is an effort “to drive a wedge between the army, different organs of the state and, more seriously, the people of Pakistan, whose support the army has always considered vital for its operations against terrorists.” Translation: To ask for the civilian control over the military and to scrutinize its mammoth secrete budget is creating a wedge between state institutions. Naturally, if the absolute supremacy of the military institution—a taken for granted privilege—is challenged it will create a wedge in the existing institutional alignment.

Gen. Kiyani’s statement makes it clear that the military is in mode to introspect, reform and help Pakistan by stepping back from national politics. Instead Gen. Kiayni is combinative, using the same old clichés and employing slick political strategies. The military does not want to or is not getting it as to what is wrong.

What is wrong with Pakistan military? Fundamental blunder of the military is to establish a monopoly over defining Pakistani nation and its interests. It is not the military that defines the nation and its interests in any civilized country. It is the duty and task of the political forces to do so and the military follows the dictates of the civilian government’s defined objectives.

In Pakistan’s history from Gen. Ayub Khan to Gen. Kiayni, military chiefs take it upon themselves to define the Pakistani nation and its interests. In the rest of the world the dictum is that ‘war is too serious a matter to be left to the generals’ but in Pakistan it is just the opposite ‘war and national interests are too serious matters to be left to the civilians.’

Pakistan military defined Pakistan as a religious state from the very beginning but the trend accentuated after losing war in East Bengal. The logical lesson from losing East Pakistan should have been that a country cannot be united on the basis of the religion. Bengali Muslims rebellion should have been an eye opener for the military. However, it embraced the most illogical conclusion and embarked upon a course to turn Pakistan into an Islamic theocratic state. Military reached this conclusion just because it was only Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) that was its partner in butchering the East Bengali Muslims. Post 1971 war nexus between military and religious parties, specifically JI, always played the major part in shaping Pakistan of today.

Without getting into details of how the military-mullah alliance created religious bigotry, theocratic laws and, ultimately, proliferation of jihadi producing madrassas, we should look at the final outcome. Jihadi producing madrassas were abetted, encouraged and financed by the military. If it was not so let us assume that somehow such schools were being established by the Marxist or Maoists? Would military allow it and watch from the sidelines or destroy them? Let us assume that instead of Muslim jihadis, India like Maoist movement had started a guerrilla war against the state what would be military’s response? They would have been crushed ruthlessly. Therefore, there should be no doubt that proliferation of armed bands of jihadis is the outcome of military’s ideology imposed on that society. It is the military’s nation defining monopoly that has created the present disastrous situation.

The irony is that military is not willing to recognize the mess they have created. They are not prepared to back off from nation defining and hand over this function to civilians. May be civilians will not be very successful in this venture but they have yet to prove. On the contrary, military prescriptions are well tested in the last 60 years and we know that they have created havoc in Pakistan. They should look at Pakistan and see the ruins created by them. But will they? It does not seem likely because monopoly over ideological discourse is closely linked to their institutional and personal interests (perks).

Courtesy: Wichaar

A horrible slaughter by beasts. Harrowing images..

The Pakistani security forces are murdering common citizens in cold blood and broad daylight: Their allegation appeared to be correct when footage aired on news channels showed the unarmed youngster had been shot from a very close range by one of six Rangers personnel gathered around him.The language of the video clip is urdu (Hindi).

Courtesy: Duniya TV News (Crossfire with Mehar Bukhari – 9th June 2011)

via ZemTv, YouTube

An open letter to General Pasha – by Ejaz Haider

Dear General Pasha,

I write this letter to you in the wake of the gruesome and gratuitous murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, friend to many, including myself.

The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate, the agency you head, is being accused of Saleem’s murder. You must also know that the ISI is widely reviled and dreaded at home. For an agency that was set up primarily for strategic intelligence, this is quite an achievement. It is accused of driving in its own lane, monitoring the media, kidnapping, torturing and sometimes killing dissenters, political and otherwise, determining, arbitrarily, what Pakistan’s national interest is and how best we should go about pursuing it.

You must also know that some former officers have not only admitted to electoral fraud, rigging, making and breaking of political alliances, buying people through a mix of carrots and sticks, and browbeating the media, but consider having done so as part of their remit and in the best national interest. Perish the thought that any one of them would say peccavi, since some actually boast about it.

Whispers there always have been. But now much is being said aloud. The ISI is not accountable to anyone; it is all-powerful; it can kill mercilessly and, in this case, it has killed Saleem, so go these whispers. What would you say to this? Shrug and move on, as if it makes no difference, that this is about a few flies buzzing around, a minor nuisance at worst? The man, who now lies buried after being tortured to death, leaves behind three children and a wife. To me this does not look like anything minor.

And what has the agency you head done so far? ….

Read more: The Express Tribune

M.F. Husain dies; famous Indian painter, 95, was in exile after death threats from Hindu hardliners

India’s most prominent painter, M.F. Hussain, dies in self-imposed exile at age 95

By Associated Press

NEW DELHI — M.F. Hussain, a former movie billboard artist who rose to become India’s most sought-after painter before going into self-imposed exile during an uproar over nude images of Hindu icons, died Thursday. He was 95.

CNN-IBN TV channel quoted a friend, Arun Vadehra, as saying that Hussain, often described as India’s Picasso, died at the Royal Brompton hospital in London. His lawyer, Akhil Sibal, confirmed the death to The Associated Press.

Hussain had lived in Dubai since 2006 after receiving death threats from Hindu hard-liners in India for a nude painting of a woman shaped like India’s map, often depicted as “Mother India” in popular arts, folklore and literature. A nude of Hindu goddess Saraswati also angered the hard-liners. ….

Read more: Washington Post