Tag Archives: instability

The relentless crisis — Lal Khan

Occupy Islamabad LahoreThe huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst

After the 2008 crash of the world economy, there was an unprecedented turbulence in the world markets and economies. In the advanced capitalist economies most regimes, social-democratic or conservative, carried through severe austerity and cuts that started the process of dismantling the welfare state, mainly in Europe. All those gains achieved through intense struggle by the working classes of these countries were being reversed. Still the US and European economies could not come out of the recession after five years of brutal recipes to put the burden of the crisis of capitalism onto the shoulders of the working masses. There is a seething revulsion against the ruling classes. A popular catchphrase doing the rounds in Europe say it all: “Bankers are slightly less popular than paedophiles and serial killers.”

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries, the so-called emerging economies that were expected to give a new lease of life to capitalism with high growth rates, have failed to do so. Their growth rates shrank and the nature of the socioeconomic development in these countries, where the tasks of the bourgeois revolution have not been accomplished, have resulted in severe social contradictions that have now begun to explode on the political plane. Instability, uncertainty and disillusionment are now stalking these lands. The eruption of mass revolts from Turkey to Brazil are thus not accidental. They reflect a growing discontent and a sense of revulsion amongst the masses who are being inflicted by the severe trauma of this crisis that is crushing their livelihood.

It seems as if happiness has become elusive for the ordinary people in the advanced capitalist countries, not to speak of the oppressed working classes of the underdeveloped world.

After the Second World War, even if the revolutions were defeated in several European countries mainly due to the betrayals of the leaders of the Social Democratic and Communist parties, yet the upswing enabled these traditional leaders of the mass organisations to carry out reforms. Reforms are always introduced from above to stop revolution from below, but at least at that stage capitalism in the developed countries had the capacity to create a social welfare state. In Britain, education became free and the Labour Party introduced a health system where even foreign visitors could get treatment at a minimal cost.

People had hope for a better future and that created a blissful atmosphere and relatively prosperous societies. Now that optimism in life in Europe seems to have evaporated. People have lost hope in a future that promises only a grim life. A social malaise has set in. It is astonishing that this situation has developed in the aftermath of the collapse of the USSR, Eastern European Socialism and the capitalist restoration in China. After these events the bourgeoisie gained access to a huge market of more than two billion. At that time in the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, there was euphoria amongst the strategists of capital. The bourgeoisie on a world scale were dizzy with success. Yet it has turned out to be a hoax.

Dialectally it turned into its opposite and today we see capitalism mired in its most severe crisis, unprecedented in its 200-years history. This exposes the historical redundancy and the organic sickness of capitalism. Even with such a massive expansion of the market, it has failed to develop society and improve the living standards of the working class even in the advanced countries. The growth we saw in the last 20 to 30 years was through a greater labour intensive mechanism where all or most members of the household were working, many workers working overtime and of course, a gigantic expansion of credit.

The huge bubbles of speculative investment in housing, InfoTech, petroleum products and others sectors have now burst. But what triggered the crash of 2008 was the overextension of credit that accumulated in the corporate sector and through personal loans in the previous three decades. The banking default in 2007 led to the sovereign default in 2010. Ever since the economies of most European countries and the US have been reeling from a chronic crisis with no end in sight.

According to the Financial Times, it could take at least 20 years to solve the European crisis! It goes on to say, “Europe raises the spectre of an ungovernable world.” The usually boastful The Economist had to concede, “The way to recovery is long and dark.” If these most staunch strategists and spokespersons of capitalism are in such gloom, the reality of this system’s recovery must be much starker.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2008 crash, there was a sense of shock amongst the workers of the advanced capitalist countries. However, as various regimes embarked upon severe austerity programmes, retaliation began to emerge from the workers and the youth. The revolution in Tunisia that ignited the Arab revolution in the spring of 2011 took its inspiration from the mass demonstrations and protests in France in the autumn of 2010. The lightning strikes of the students in Britain in December of that year also had a huge impact on the youth, especially in Egypt. After the Arab Spring we saw the European summer with mass protests not seen in two decades in most countries of Europe. Then we saw the American Autumn with the sudden rise of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US with huge implications worldwide.

These movements also had important repercussions on the political plane. After 19 general strikes we saw the collapse of the traditional political party of the workers in Greece, PASOK. The meteoric rise of SYRIZA in Greece also shows that the working classes at a certain point can overcome the burden of their traditions and move ahead to a more radical solution.

Read more » Daily Times
http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20137\21\story_21-7-2013_pg3_5

Canada drops out of top 10 most developed countries list

The United Nations human development index now ranks Canada as 11th

By the Canadian Press

Canada has slipped out of the top 10 countries listed in the annual United Nation’s human development index — a far cry from the 1990s when it held the first place for most of the decade.

The 2013 report, which reviews a country’s performance in health, education and income, places Canada in 11th place versus 10th last year.

Continue reading Canada drops out of top 10 most developed countries list

Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

By: Bruce Riedel

2013 will be a pivotal year in Pakistani history. National elections, turnover at the top military position and the denouement in the war in Afghanistan; all promise to make it a critical year for a country that is both, under siege by terrorism and the center of the global jihadist movement. The changes in Pakistan are unlikely to come peacefully and will have major implications for India and America. The stakes are huge in the most dangerous country in the world.

Pakistan is a country in the midst of a long and painful crisis. According to the government, since 2001 45,000 Pakistanis have died in terrorism related violence, including 7,000 security personnel. Suicide bombings were unheard of before 9/11; there have been 300 since then. The country’s biggest city, Karachi, is a battlefield.

One measure of Pakistan’s instability is that the country now has between 300 and 500 private security firms, employing 3,00,000 armed guards, most run by ex-generals. The American intelligence community’s new global estimate rates Pakistan among the most likely states in the world to fail by 2030.

Pakistan also remains a state sponsor of terror. Three of the five most-wanted on America’s counter-terrorism list live in Pakistan. The mastermind of the Mumbai massacre and head of Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafeez Saeed, makes no effort to hide. He is feted by the army and the political elite, appears on television and calls for the destruction of India frequently and jihad against America and Israel.

The head of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar, shuttles between ISI safe houses in Quetta and Karachi. The Amir of Al Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri, is probably hiding in a villa not much different than the one his predecessor was living in, with his wives and children, in Abbottabad until May 2011.

Pakistan also has the fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world, bigger than Great Britain’s. The nukes are in the hands of the generals, the civilian government only has nominal control. President Asif Ali Zardari has only nominal influence over the ISI as well; indeed it has conspired for five years to get rid of him.

Against the odds, Zardari has survived.

By next fall, he will have served five years, becoming the first elected civilian leader to complete a full term in office and pass power to another elected government. It will be a major milestone for Pakistani democracy. He has served years in prison and lost his wife to the terrorists who besiege the nation. He has often been called a criminal by many, including his own family, and the national symbol of corruption.

Yet, as president, he presided over a major transfer of power from the Presidency to the Prime Minister’s Office, even the titular national command authority over the nukes, to ensure the country is more democratic and stable.

The parliamentary election in the spring will be a replay of every Pakistani election since 1988, pitting Nawaz Sharif’s PML against the late Benazir Bhutto’s PPP. Needless to say, many Pakistanis are sick of the same stale choices. But the odds favour the old parties. Both Sharif and Zardari are committed to cautiously improving relations with India, keeping open ties with America and trying to reform the Pakistani economy. Both will have troubled relations with the Army.

The Economist has tagged Sharif as likely to do best. If he returns to the Prime Minister’s job for a third time, it will be a remarkable turn in his own odyssey.

Sharif was removed from the office in 1999 in an illegal coup and barely escaped alive, to go into exile in Saudi Arabia. His decision to withdraw Pakistan’s troops behind the LOC, during the Kargil war, prompted his fall from power; it also may have saved the world from nuclear destruction. It was a brave move. I remember talking to him and his family in the White House the day after he made the decision to pull back, you could see in his eyes that he knew Musharraf would defame him; but he knew he was in the right.

But many Pakistanis want a new face to lead their country. Out of desperation some are turning to Imran Khan to save Pakistan. The ISI is probably helping his campaign behind the scenes to stir up trouble for the others. He is a long shot at best. He is much more anti-American, anti-drone and ready to make deals with the Taliban, to stop the terror at home. Yet, he understands well that Pakistan is a country urgently in need of new thinking.

Whoever wins will inherit an economy and government that is in deep trouble. Two-thirds of 185 million Pakistanis are under 30, and 40 million of the 70 million 5 to 19 years old are not in school. The youth bulge has yet to spike. Less than one million Pakistanis paid taxes last year. Most politicians don’t pay any taxes. Power blackouts are endemic. Clean water is increasingly scarce even as catastrophic floods are more common. Growth is 3%, too little to keep up with population demand.

So, it is no wonder that the generals prefer to have the civilians responsible for managing the unmanageable, while they guard their prerogatives and decide national security issues. As important as the coming elections will be, the far more important issue is who will be the next Chief of Army Staff.

The incumbent General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was given an unprecedented three-year extension in 2010. He is the epitome of the Pakistani officer corps and the so-called ‘deep state’. Pervez Musharraf made him Director General of the ISI in 2004. It was on his watch that the Afghan Taliban recovered and regrouped in Quetta, Osama bin Laden built his hideout 800 yards outside Kayani’s alma mater the Kakul Military Academy in Abbottabad in 2005, and planning began for the Lashkar-e-Taiba attack on Mumbai. He was DG/ISI when David Headley, the American serving life for his role in the 2008 attack, began his reconnaissance trips to Mumbai to prepare the way for 26/11. Kayani probably authorized the funds for Headley’s cover and travel. He is the first DG/ISI to become COAS. His term expires in September, 2013.

The history of civilians choosing Chiefs of Army Staff in Pakistan is not encouraging.

Continue reading Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

Is the state disintegrating?

By Raza Rumi

It is perhaps too early to analyse and unpack the turbulent events of last week that shook Pakistan and alarmed the world as to its endemic instability, increasingly exacerbated by the mass radicalisation of its society. Though the grave provocation by a random, obscure amateur film-maker may have been the trigger, each segment of Pakistani polity contributed to the undoing of the façade of civilian power as well as the illusion of relative social harmony.

The civilian government capitulated way too early to an agenda set by the extremists, who not content with using the issue of blasphemy as a domestic political lever, are insistent on imposing it on the world. The ludicrous outcome of the so-called protests on what was supposed to be a day to show our love for the Holy Prophet (pbuh) was massive (but entirely avoidable) damage to human life, public and private property, and a slowing down of economic activity which cost the economy billions (in a country chasing IFIs for quick cash), and most importantly, to the future of a democracy in Pakistan.

Continue reading Is the state disintegrating?

America’s way out of dependence on Pakistan: Iran

By Neil Padukone

America’s dependence on Pakistan is a key source of regional instability. The only way out is to find an efficient alternative supply route for NATO supplies into Afghanistan. The Chabahar Road through Iran provides that alternative – if Washington will consider its benefits. ….

Read more » CSMONITOR

http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2012/0724/America-s-way-out-of-dependence-on-Pakistan-Iran

Judicial hyperactivism is threatening democracy in Pakistan

By: Junaid Qaiser

Pakistan is known for its weak political institutions, powerful army, several military coups and the infamous Article 58(2)-(B) that was used to send elected prime ministers to home or jail.

But this time around we are seeing a slightly different technique when the three member bench of the Supreme Court declared Yousuf Raza Gilani disqualified from holding a seat in the parliament from the date of his conviction on April 26 by a seven-member bench for contempt of court. A prime minister, who enjoyed confidence of the Parliament, who even before taking the oath of office, ordered release of the judges sacked and detained by former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf and later reinstated all the deposed judges on 16th March 2009 through an executive order. Many renowned experts as well as common person termed the ouster of elected PM similar to a judicial coup.

The Twitterities are using the hashtag #JudicialCoup to explain a new (invented)mechanism to oust an elected government.

The judges’ restoration movement, has been wrongly termed by many as a new beginning for Pakistan, as it’s not only failed to create and develop space for civilian supremacy, but also emerged a main hurdle in democratic evolution. And, today, we are more concerned than ever about the political instability. International media and observers place Pakistan in the category of countries, where parliament is continuously under sieges.

Pakistan’s judiciary has a very controversial history, which had never opposed, even the unconstitutional actions of the military dictators. The frequent imposition of martial laws, abrogation and suspension of constitutions were acts of treason under the law but were frequently validated by our apex courts.

In Maulvi Tamizuddin Khan versus the Federation of Pakistan, Justice Munir declared that the Assembly was not a sovereign body. He gave the ruling that the Constitutional Assembly had “lived in a fool’s paradise if it was ever seized with the notion that it was the sovereign body of the state”. The wording may be slightly different but the mindset remain the same, when the present Chief Justice said that the concept of parliament’s sovereignty was ages old so it was not so it was not applicable now. Historians feel that Justice Munir destroyed Pakistan’s constitutional basis when he denied the existence of Assembly’s sovereignty, and further harmed it by not indicating where sovereignty resided. It is quite obvious that historians will also judge the serious consequences of the present role of the judiciary for parliamentary democracy in Pakistan.

The observation by Justice Munir in Dosso versus the Federation of Pakistan, that a successful coup is a legal method of changing a constitution, sets the basis for the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army, General Ayub Khan, to takeover the government from Iskandar Mirza. Ironically, the military takeover by General Ayub Khan on October 27, 1958, took place one day after the decision of the court was announced. By November 10, 1977, a nine-member bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, headed by Chief Justice Sheikh Anwarul Haq, unanimously validated the imposition of martial law under the ‘doctrine of necessity’. The judgment provided cover to the unconstitutional act of General Ziaul Haq and even gave him authority to make changes in the constitution. And in the Zafar Ali Shah case, the Supreme Court had granted three years to General Musharraf to hold elections and amend the Constitution and, in turn, General Musharraf gave three-year extension in service to the then incumbent judges.

Continue reading Judicial hyperactivism is threatening democracy in Pakistan

Bangladesh model » By Najam Sethi

As expected, the Supreme Court has sent PM Yousaf Raza Gillani packing. As expected, too, the decision has been hailed and decried by the opposition and government respectively. But independent opinion at home and abroad is uniformly critical of the court’s unprecedented political activism that has relentlessly targeted the PPP – the decision has been variously described as a judicial “soft-coup“, “vendetta-judgment” and “political victimization“.

Certainly, some of the SC’s recent judgments have dampened our enthusiasm for its “populism”. In the contempt case against Mr Gilani, for example, the 7-member court which convicted him with a 30 second punishment did not expressly disqualify him in its detailed judgment on April 26th, yet a 3-member bench did so summarily in a short order on 19th June on the basis of a highly dubious clause of the constitution which has never been used before according to which Mr Gilani has been deemed not to be a good Muslim or Amin! It is significant that the two petitioners in the case were PMLN and PTI leaders and the SC blithely entertained and adjudged their prayers directly instead of forwarding them to the election commission as expressly ordained by the constitution.

Earlier, the SC’s approach in the case of Arsalan Chaudhry, son of the Chief Justice, had raised many sober eyebrows. The CJ took suo motu note of it, chaired a two judge bench, put a copy of the Holy Quran on his desk and declared that justice would be done in an Islamic fashion a la Hazrat Umar, disregarding the very code of conduct for judges that he had personally helped to formulate in 2009 in which a judge may not sit in judgment in matters such as the one before him. Then he gagged the media and accuser, hauling up both for contempt. No less disquieting was his decision not to set up a neutral commission of inquiry of either the bar or bench as demanded by many, instead passing the buck to the controversial Attorney General, a clear deviation from his decision to set up a judicial commission to investigate Memogate. Under the circumstances, if the AG’s Joint Investigation Team comprising the FIA and NAB holds against Arsalan Chaudhry and or the CJP and his family, it will be denounced as a vindictive attempt by the government to hurt the CJP and SC. The decision against the PM comes on the heels of the Arsalan case and has swiftly diverted public attention from it. What next?

Continue reading Bangladesh model » By Najam Sethi

Daily Times Editorial : Virtual judicial coup

The Supreme Court’s (SC’s) verdict on the petitions challenging the ruling of the Speaker of the National Assembly (NA) that rejected the argument that Prime Minister (PM) Yousaf Raza Gilani stood disqualified after being convicted and sentenced for contempt of court has pronounced that he does stand disqualified, not only from the premiership, but from membership of parliament as well. Not just that, the SC in its short order has laid down that he cannot stand for election for five years. To that end, the SC has sent instructions to the Election Commission (EC) to issue a notification to that effect. Meantime the PPP’s Central Executive Committee (CEC), which happened to be meeting when the verdict was announced, revealed its decisions on the crisis through a press conference by PPP leaders. The gist of the CEC’s decisions was that despite having reservations about the SC’s verdict, they had accepted the court’s finding that the conviction and sentencing till the rising of the court of Gilani for contempt on April 26 meant that he was no longer the PM, and with retrospective effect, had been removed on and since that date. The PPP has appealed to its workers and supporters to remain calm and restrained, despite the fact that the verdict is bound to inflame opinion in the PPP and allied camp. The CEC has empowered party Co-chairperson President Asif Ali Zardari to take whatever decisions he thinks fit regarding a replacement for Gilani. The intriguing question of course is whether the new PM will suffer the same pressure from the SC to write the letter to the Swiss authorities regarding President Asif Ali Zardari that the court was insisting on Gilani writing, and refusal to comply with which had attracted the contempt conviction for the former PM. In that case, the looming confrontation between state institutions, which began as a confrontation between the judiciary and the executive, could expand to now a confrontation between the judiciary and parliament as well. After all, the SC’s verdict overruling the Speaker of the NA too has set an unprecedented example, one that will reverberate in our jurisprudence for a long time to come. Questions have also been raised whether all the decisions and acts of the former PM since April 26 to date stand. The most important of these acts was the passing of the budget. It is possible that the detailed judgement may throw more light on this matter. Normally, courts are mindful that retrospective judgements should not disrupt things done and transactions closed to an extent that causes greater difficulties.

Continue reading Daily Times Editorial : Virtual judicial coup

One suo motu too many – By: Tausif Kamal

Whenever some of our preconceived myths are shattered by a stark, unyielding and yet truthful reality, we tend to revert to denial and a refusal to face up to the facts as they are

The Supreme Court’s short order in the Arsalan Iftikhar case absolving the Honourable Chief Justice (CJ) without any investigation or examination of any evidence in the underlying imbroglio is premature. It is in fact contradicted by the Supreme Court’s own statement in this order: “…the Supreme Court (SC)…cannot judge the guilt or innocence of the parties without evidence or trial…” So how is this ruling not applicable to the CJ, who is so intertwined in this scandal being the father of one of the main suspects, and whose judicial power is at the heart of this corruption scandal?

This is in way to imply that the CJ is guilty but there cannot be an exemption from inquiry and investigation along with other participants and witnesses, for possible criminal violations based just on mere words of one of the parties. Who is Malik Riaz to give a clean bill of health to the CJ? It is strange that the SC is relying on the good word of Malik Riaz whom the former considers to be an accused fit to be prosecuted for some serious criminal offences under Pakistan’s criminal laws.

To contend that the media is maligning the judiciary by highlighting this scandal is to blame the messenger and not the message. Let us not be sidetracked, for now at least, by corruption in the media, which no doubt prevails, but which is less important than the imperative of our judiciary to have an unassailable reputation and an image above reproach. Conducting a thorough probe or inquiry of all those allegedly involved, including the Honourable CJ, will clear rather than tarnish the judiciary’s reputation and remove the dark clouds hanging over our most esteemed institution.

The nation has a right to know answers to such vital questions as how long the CJ knew about his son’s involvement with Malik Riaz and how many meetings the CJ had with Malik Riaz before the matter was seized through a suo motu action. The only other acceptable alternative to such an inquiry would be for the CJ to quit honourably in the larger interests of the judiciary and the country.

Continue reading One suo motu too many – By: Tausif Kamal

Political Instability Rises as Pakistani Court Ousts Premier

By DECLAN WALSH

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The Supreme Court dismissed Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Tuesday, drastically escalating a confrontation between the government and the judiciary and plunging the political system into turmoil.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry declared that Mr. Gilani’s office had been effectively vacant since April 26 when the court convicted him on contempt charges because he refused to pursue a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari, his superior.

Although the decision is unlikely to topple the government, many viewed it as the product of a grudge-driven tussle between Mr. Zardari and Justice Chaudhry, with the prime minister caught in the middle.

“The court has been gunning for the prime minister for a long time,” said Najam Sethi, a veteran political analyst. “Clearly there is a lot of politics in this.”

The order left Pakistan in a state of constitutional uncertainty, with the cabinet effectively dismissed. The court instructed Mr. Zardari to “ensure continuation of the democratic process” — words widely interpreted as an order to arrange the election of a new prime minister.

Legal experts said Mr. Gilani cannot appeal the decision but he may continue in an interim role until his successor is chosen. ….

Read more » The New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/20/world/asia/political-instability-rises-as-pakistani-court-dismisses-prime-minister.html?_r=2

Democracy under threat

By: Asma Jahangir

THE masks are off and daggers drawn. Pakistan’s democratic process may once again become a part of history, leaving the world to wonder how we could so willingly poison ourselves in the belief that it would lead to better days.

Those in power have consistently let their people down — ruthlessly. But no one is being fooled. They may feel helpless in the face of manipulation by everyone trying to save their skins — the judiciary included — but as the courts have often held themselves the truth does eventually prevail.

In the meanwhile, the country is headed for another phase of political instability that may finally lead to yet another autocracy. Sense may prevail at the end, but in the process, many heads will roll and hopes will be demolished. These are sad days for Pakistan.

Continue reading Democracy under threat

Dangerous self-destruction Disease – Origin of our national mindset

By Khaled Ahmed

Origin of our national mindset

The Army is composed of Punjabis up to 80 percent. Even the Navy, which should normally absorb coastal populations, is composed almost exclusively of Punjabis.

The ‘vitality’ and ‘dynamism’ of the middle class in Pakistan are channeled into ideological aspirations that negate the modern state

The economist says the middle class anywhere in the world is a factor of dynamic growth: a growing middle class means the country will post good growth rates. But for the non-economist, no two middle classes may be alike. In Pakistan, the middle class is conservative, just like India’s; but unlike India, it is ideological, anti-American and pro-Taliban.

The Indian Constitution informs the attitude of the Indian middle class, which is tolerant of secularism. In Pakistan, the Constitution inclines the middle class to desire sharia and consequently prefer the ‘harder’ sharia of al Qaeda to state ideology. It is the sentinel of the unchanging character of the medieval state presented as a utopia by state ideology.

Continue reading Dangerous self-destruction Disease – Origin of our national mindset

The ‘wealthy’ Pakistani generals

Pakistan has had a turbulent history. And it remains in turmoil with growing internal instability and rising conflicts with its neighbours. Despite the return to civilian rule, the politics of the country has remained closely linked to the military, one of Pakistan’s most powerful institutions. The generals while projecting their utility are virtually in control. Interestingly, while Pakistan suffers economic difficulties, frequent political crises and issues like unemployment, illiteracy and malnutrition, the top brass of the army is making huge amounts of money through the corporate sector and controls large tracts of real estate. The Auditor General of Pakistan revealed that the army is using government land falling in A-1 category worth 1.4 billion USD (Rs. 120.767 billion) for commercial purposes.

The one & only political party of Pakistan which has almost 7 Lacs (seven hundered thousands) armed & trained members paid by govt from tax payers money. “Army forcibly takes its resources from civilians”. It will tell you why politicians are weak in this country.  un ki koi sunta hi nahi.

Courtesy: via- Siasat.pkSouth Asia News – You Tube

Pakistan has been playing us all for suckers

Britain is spending millions bolstering Pakistan, but it is a nation in thrall to radical Islam and is using its instability to blackmail the West

by Christina Lamb

When David Cameron announced £650m in education aid for Pakistan last week, I guess the same thought occurred to many British people as it did to me: why are we doing this?

While we are slashing our social services and making our children pay hefty university fees, why should we be giving all this money to a country that has reduced its education budget to 1.5% of GDP while spending several times as much on defence? A country where only 1.7m of a population of 180m pay tax? A country that is stepping up its production of nuclear weapons so much that its arsenal will soon outnumber Britain’s? A country so corrupt that when its embassy in Washington held an auction to raise money for flood victims, and a phone rang, one Pakistani said loudly: “That’s the president calling for his cut”? A country which has so alienated powerful friends in America that they now want to abandon it?

As someone who has spent almost as much time in Pakistan as in Britain over the past 24 years, I feel particularly conflicted, as I have long argued we should be investing more in education there.

That there is a crisis in Pakistan’s education system is beyond doubt. A report out last month by the Pakistan education taskforce, a non-partisan body, shows that at least 7m children are not in school. Indeed, one-tenth of the world’s children not in school are in Pakistan. The first time I went to Pakistan in 1987 I was astonished to see that while billions of pounds’ worth of weapons from the West were going to Pakistan’s intelligence service to distribute to the Afghan mujaheddin, there was nothing for schools.

The Saudis filled the gap by opening religious schools, some of which became breeding grounds for militants and trained the Taliban. Cameron hopes that investing in secular education will provide Pakistan’s children with an alternative to radicalism and reduce the flow of young men who want to come and bomb the West.

“I would struggle to find a country that it is more in Britain’s interests to see progress and succeed than Pakistan,” he said. “If Pakistan is a success, we will have a good friend to trade with and deal with in the future … If we fail, we will have all the problems of migration and extremism that we don’t want to see.”

As the sixth most populous country, with an arsenal of between 100 and 120 nuclear weapons, as the base of both Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership, and as homeland to a large population in Britain, Pakistan is far more important to our security than Afghanistan. But after spending two weeks travelling in Pakistan last month, I feel the situation has gone far beyond anything that a long-term strategy of building schools and training teachers can hope to restrain.

The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington — its paymaster to the tune of billions of dollars over the past 10 years — is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan.

Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California who sits on the House foreign affairs committee and has been dealing with Pakistan since working in the Reagan White House, says he now realises “they were playing us for suckers all along”.

“I used to be Pakistan’s best friend on the Hill but I now consider Pakistan to be an unfriendly country to the US,” he said. “Pakistan has literally been getting away with murder and when you tie that with the realisation that they went ahead and used their scarce resources to build nuclear weapons, it is perhaps the most frightening of all the things that have been going on over the last few years.

“We were snookered. For a long time we bought into this vision that Pakistan’s military was a moderate force and we were supporting moderates by supporting the military. In fact the military is in alliance with radical militants. Just because they shave their beards and look western they fooled a lot of people.”

Christine Fair, assistant professor at the centre for peace and security studies at Georgetown University in Washington, is equally scathing. “Pakistan’s development strategy is to rent out its strategic scariness and not pay taxes itself,” she said. “We should let them fail.”The Pakistani crisis has reached the point where Washington is being urged to tear up the strategic alliance underpinning the war in Afghanistan

Pakistan’s prime minister, Yousuf Gilani, comes from one of Punjab’s largest land-owning families. Watching Cameron sign over the £650m, he said: “I think the root cause of terrorism and extremism is illiteracy. Therefore we are giving a lot of importance to education.”

If that were the case one might expect Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the most elite universities in the country, to be a bastion of liberalism. Yet in the physics department Pervez Hoodbhoy, professor of nuclear physics, sits with his head in his hands staring out at a sea of burqas. “People used to imagine there was only a lunatic fringe in Pakistan society of these ultra-religious people,” he said. “Now we’re learning that this is not a fringe but a majority.”

What brought this home to him was the murder earlier this year of Salman Taseer, the half-British governor of Punjab who had called for the pardoning of a Christian woman sentenced to death under the blasphemy law. The woman, Aasia Bibi, had been convicted after a mullah had accused her of impugning Islam when she shouted at two girls who refused to drink water after she had touched it because they said it was unclean.

Taseer had been a key figure in Pakistan’s politics for decades and had suffered prison and torture, yet when he said the Aasia case showed the law needed reforming, he was vilified by the mullahs and the media. In January he was shot 27 times by one of his own guards. His murderer, Mumtaz Qadri, became a hero, showered with rose petals by lawyers when he appeared in public.

After the killing, Hoodbhoy was asked to take part in a televised debate at the Islamabad Press Club in front of students. His fellow panellists were Farid Piracha, spokesman for the country’s biggest religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and Maulana Sialvi, a supposed moderate mullah from the Barelvi sect. Both began by saying that the governor brought the killing on himself, as “he who blasphemes his prophet shall be killed”. The students clapped.

Hoodbhoy then took the microphone. “Even as the mullahs frothed and screamed I managed to say that the culture of religious extremism was resulting in a bloodbath in which the majority of victims were Muslims; that non-Muslims were fleeing Pakistan. I said I’m not an Islamic scholar but I know there are Muslim countries that don’t think the Koran says blasphemy carries the death sentence, such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Egypt.

“I didn’t get a single clap. When I directly addressed Sialvi and said you have Salman Taseer’s blood on your hands, he looked at them and exclaimed: how I wish I had done it! He got thunderous applause.”

Afterwards, “I came back and wanted to dig a hole in the ground,” he said. “I can’t figure out why this country has gone so mad. I’ve seen my department change and change and change. There wasn’t one burqa-clad woman in the 1980s but today the non-hijabi, non-burqa student is an exception. As for the male students, they all come in turbans and beards with these fierce looks on their faces.”

Yet, he points out, these students are the super-elite, paying high fees to attend the university: “It’s nothing to do with causes normally associated with radicalism; it’s that the mullah is allowed complete freedom to spread the message of hate and liberals are bunkering down. Those who speak out are gone and the government has abdicated its responsibility and doesn’t even pretend to protect life and property.”

Raza Rumi, a young development worker and artist who blogs regularly, agrees. As we sat in a lively coffee bar in Lahore that could have been in the West until the lights went off in one of the frequent power cuts, he said: “Radicalism in Pakistan isn’t equated with poverty and backwardness — we’re seeing more radicalisation of the urban middle and upper class. I look at my own extended family. When I was growing up, maybe one or two people had a beard. Last time I went to a family wedding I was shell-shocked. All these uncles and aunts who were regular Pakistanis watching cricket and Indian movies now all have beards or are in hijabs.

“I think we’re in an existential crisis. The moderate political parties have taken a back seat and chickened out as they just want to protect their positions. What is Pakistan’s identity? Is it an Islamist identity as defined by Salman Taseer’s murder, ISI [the intelligence service], the jihadists? Is that really what we want to be?”

He does not know how much longer he will write about such things. “I’ve been getting repeated emails that I should leave the country or shut up,” he said.

When I left the cafe I was followed for the rest of the day by a small yellow car.

Courtesy: thesundaytimes.co.uk

MQM killing innocent people says Nawaz Sharif

MUZAFFARABAD: Chief of his own faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif, on Sunday accused the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) of killing innocent people in Karachi.

“MQM killed hundreds of innocent people to avenge the killing of one worker,” he said, while addressing a large gathering of PML-N supporters here at University Ground.

Why were 50 people killed on May 12, 2007 and Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry not allowed to leave the Karachi airport?” the former prime minister asked.

Sharif said that he would bring about a revolution to pull the country out of its present state of instability. He claimed that the Muslim League is the name of a revolution and “I myself am a revolutionary.” …

Read more : The Express Tribune

The same old song

By Kamran Shafi

Courtesy: dawn, 12 Jan, 2010

There goes Amreeka Bahadur, once again doing exactly the wrong thing. As quoted in this newspaper of record Richard Holbrooke, the czar of American policy planning for Afghanistan and Pakistan (Afpak) who will soon be in Islamabad the Beautiful, has recently said: “Political instability is always a concern in any country … but if we are asked, and people think it will help, as in the past, we will (help).”

He then went and really put his foot in it: “We are watching (the situation) with sympathy and support for the elected government.”

While he did try and retrieve the situation by adding the word ‘support’ and by further saying: “… but we are friends of the Pakistani people and of the elected government”, he went and did it again: the United States, he said, also had good relations and respect for the Pakistani military which had taken actions in difficult conditions.

Continue reading The same old song

Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

Courtesy: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

First, the bottom line: Pakistan will not break up; there will not be another military coup; the Taliban will not seize the presidency; Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will not go astray; and the Islamic sharia will not become the law of the land.

That’s the good news. It conflicts with opinions in the mainstream U.S. press, as well as with some in the Obama administration. For example, in March, David Kilcullen, a top adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, declared that state collapse could occur within six months. This is highly improbable.

Now, the bad news: The clouds hanging over the future of Pakistan’s state and society are getting darker. Collapse isn’t impending, but there is a slow-burning fuse. While timescales cannot be mathematically forecast, the speed of societal decline has surprised many who have long warned that religious extremism is devouring Pakistan.

Continue reading Whither Pakistan? A five-year forecast