Tag Archives: Question

What uprisings give rise to – Dr Manzur Ejaz

The Egyptian army is no different than its counterparts in the developing countries. After a peace treaty with Israel, the Egyptian army’s sole function was to maintain a corrupt and unjust economic system in which a small section of society owned most of the national wealth. As time goes by, the Egyptian military’s obstructive role will become clearer

Many Pakistanis have been wistfully looking towards the Tahrir Square uprising and questioning why the same cannot be done in Pakistan. These uprisings have happened many times in Pakistan, whereby army dictators were forced out of power by popular movements of one kind or the other. However, the people did not experience any improvement in their living conditions or even civil liberties during democratic periods. By now they are disillusioned and do not know against whom they should rise.

The Ayub Khan era was not as long as Hosni Mubarak’s but the democratic rights in Egypt were almost the same as those in Pakistan of that time. Ayub Khan was secular and an enemy of the Jamaat-e-Islami like Hosni Mubarak was against the Muslim Brotherhood. Up until 1967, Ayub Khan had such a strong grip on Pakistan that it appeared as if his family would rule for generations just like a few months back, Hosni Mubarak’s son seemed all prepared to take over Egypt by the next elections. However, a small incident in Rawalpindi Polytechnic Institute, in which some students were killed, triggered such a popular movement that Ayub Khan was out in a few months. In a way that incident was not unique because the then Governor of West Pakistan, Amir Mohammad Khan, the Nawab of Kalabagh, was notorious for his repressive techniques. However, the masses were fed up with Ayub Khan’s rule and a mammoth movement was born in both parts of the country. Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto became the leading forces in East and West Pakistan respectively.

The people who had seen massive crowds on both sides of the GT Road, from Rawalpindi to Multan — making a human chain of hundreds of miles — would agree that the scene was not any less impressive than what we have seen in Tahrir Square in the last few weeks. Just like in the Egyptian uprising, the political environment was so tolerant and non-discriminatory that several Ahmedis were elected to the provincial and national assemblies. In short, what we are seeing in Egypt now did happen in Pakistan some 40 years back.

Now, if we skip the details of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) against Ziaul Haq, which brought back the PPP and PML-N, and jump to the 2007 movement for an independent judiciary, we see another Tahrir Square-style uprising. Once again, the people turned the GT Road into a Tahrir Square as Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s motorcade made its way to Faisalabad/Lahore from Rawalpindi in 24 hours. Once again, the people’s movement forced General Musharraf to quit power and run away from the country. But what did people get from the democracy they struggled for so many times?

In a way, the Egyptian uprising for democracy was not as mature as Pakistani democratic movements. …

Read more : Wichaar

Pakistan’s nukes: How many are enough?

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

The latest news from America must have thrilled many: Pakistan probably has more nuclear weapons than India. A recent Washington Post article, quoting various nuclear experts, suggests that Pakistan is primed to “surge ahead in the production of nuclear-weapons material, putting it on a path to overtake Britain as the world’s fifth largest nuclear weapons power”.

Some may shrug off this report as alarmist anti-Pakistan propaganda, while others will question the accuracy of such claims. Indeed, given the highly secret nature of nuclear programmes everywhere, at best one can only make educated guesses on weapons and their materials. For Pakistan, it is well known that the Kahuta complex has been producing highly enriched uranium for a quarter century, and that there are two operational un-safeguarded plutonium-producing reactors at Khushab (with a third one under construction). Still, the exact amounts of bomb-grade material and weapons are closely held secrets.

But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the claims made are correct. Indeed, let us suppose that Pakistan surpasses India in numbers – say by 50 per cent or even 100 per cent. Will that really make Pakistan more secure? Make it more capable of facing current existential challenges?

The answer is, no. Pakistan’s basic security problems lie within its borders: growing internal discord and militancy, a collapsing economy, and a belief among most citizens that the state cannot govern effectively. These are deep and serious problems that cannot be solved by more or better weapons. Therefore the way forward lies in building a sustainable and active democracy, an economy for peace rather than war, a federation in which provincial grievances can be effectively resolved, elimination of the feudal order and creating a tolerant society that respects the rule of law. …

Read more : THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE

Many in Pakistan Fear Unrest at Home

By JANE PERLEZ

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Protests over crippling prices and corrupt leadership are sweeping much of the Islamic world, but here in Pakistan this week, the government blithely dismissed any threat to its longevity or to the country’s stability.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani insisted that Pakistan was not Egypt or Tunisia. “Our institutions are working and democracy is functional,” he said. The economy, while under pressure, is not in crisis.

But while Mr. Gilani appeared unruffled, diplomats, analysts and other Pakistani officials admitted to unease, and conceded that Pakistan contained many of the same ingredients for revolt found in the Middle East — and then some: an economy hollowed out by bad management and official corruption; rising Islamic religious fervor; and a poisonous resentment of the United States, Pakistan’s biggest financial supporter.

If no one expects Pakistan to be swept by revolution this week, the big question on many minds is how, and when, a critical mass of despair among this nation’s 180 million people and the unifying Islamist ideology might be converted into collective action.

Some diplomats and analysts compare the combustible mixture of religious ideology and economic frustration, overlaid with the distaste for America, to Iran in 1979. Only one thing is missing: a leader.

“What’s lacking is a person or institution to link the economic aspirations of the lower class with the psychological frustration of the committed Islamists,” a Western diplomat said this week. “Our assessment is: this is like Tehran, 1979.”

Mr. Gilani is right in that Pakistan held fairly free elections three years ago, when the democratically based Pakistan Peoples Party, led by President Asif Ali Zardari, won.

But the return to civilian government after a decade of military rule has meant little to the people because politicians have done nothing for voters, said Farrukh Saleem, a risk analyst and columnist in The News, a daily newspaper.

As it has been for all of Pakistan’s more than 60 years of history, Parliament today remains dominated by the families of a favored few, who use their perch to maintain a corrupt patronage system and to protect their own interests as Pakistan’s landed and industrial class. The government takes in little in taxes, and as a result provides little in the way of services to its people.

“Ninety-nine percent of Pakistanis are not affected by the state — it doesn’t deliver anything for them,” Mr. Saleem said. “People are looking for alternatives. So were the Iranians in 1979.”

There is little question that the images from Egypt and Tunisia are reverberating through Pakistani society, and encouraging workers to speak up and vent frustration in ways that were unusual even three months ago.

“There’s no electricity, no gas, no clean water,” said Ali Ahmad, a hotel worker in Lahore who is usually a model of discretion. “I think if things stay the same, people will come out and destroy everything.”

When a young banker in a prestigious job at a foreign bank was asked if Pakistan could go the way of Egypt, he replied, “I hope so.”

At the core of Pakistan’s problem are the wretched economic conditions of day-to-day life for most of the people whose lives are gouged by inflation, fuel shortages and scarcity of work.

They see the rich getting richer, including “the sons of rich, corrupt politicians and their compatriots openly buying Rolls-Royces with their black American Express cards,” said Jahangir Tareen, a reformist politician and successful agricultural businessman.

Food inflation totaled 64 percent in the last three years, according to Sakib Sherani, who resigned recently as the principal economic adviser at the Finance Ministry. The purchasing power of the average wage earner has declined by 20 percent since 2008, he said.

Families are taking children out of school because they cannot afford both fees and food. Others choose between medicine and dinner.

A middle-class customer in a pharmacy in Rawalpindi, the city where the powerful army has its headquarters, told the pharmacist last week to sell him only two pills of a course of 10 antibiotics because he did not have enough money for groceries. …

Read more : The New York Times

Possibility of “revolution” in Pakistan?

Ripe for revolution? – By Mahreen Khan

…. Despite a wave of public protests, Egypt is unlikely to emulate Tunisia, due to factors also present in Pakistan. Egypt has a sharp religious divide between Coptics and Muslims as well as numerous Islamic groups pitted against each other. Arab analysts cite low levels of literacy and a general feeling of apathy and defeatism in the population as further reasons that Egypt will continue to fester rather than revolt. Pakistan has these and additional factors which militate against a revolution: deep and multiple ethnic, linguistic, tribal and sectarian fault lines; a paucity of alternative intellectual narratives, radical leaders or strong unions; and an elected government and freedom of speech. Ironically, democratic elections and free speech help perpetuate the corrupt, unjust stranglehold of the feudal-industrial power elite. Revolutionary forces require a moral impetus that illegitimate dictatorship provides but elected government does not. Secondly, frustration needs to simmer under a repressive regime until it reaches the temperature for mass revolt. Pakistan’s free media allows an outlet for public dissatisfaction. The often harsh treatment of politicians and police officials at the hands of journalists and judges ameliorates public anger. Vocal opposition parties, unhindered street protests and strikes allow a regular release of fury, draining the momentum necessary for the emotional surge that revolutionary zeal requires. …

Read more : The Express Tribune

Revolution in Pakistan? Is it possible?

by Aziz Narejo, TX

On the contrary, it is highly likely that if the longstanding ‘national question’ is not solved to the satisfaction of the constituents and the provinces are not accorded the rights as promised in the famous 1940 Lahore Resolution which came to be called ‘Pakistan Resolution’, then there is a real time possibility that the country may soon face disintegration.

One hears about a call for revolution in Pakistan every now and then. Recent uprising in the Middle East and Northern Africa has given an impetus to such sentiments in Pakistan. But is a revolution really possible in a country like Pakistan, which is home to divergent and dissimilar cultures and where people are constantly at loggerheads on different issues?

The question can also be appropriately answered if one knows ‘what’ kind of revolution its proponents want.

It is not easy to call for and build a consensus for a revolution in the countries which are not ‘nation states’ or homogeneous. One should be realistic and very clear on this subject. For all practical purposes, Pakistan is a multi-national country. It is home to different people who have distinct cultures with their own languages and history. Their interests are in conflict with each other and they even have their own heroes. Heroes of some are villains for others. How can such a divergent country stand united to fight for a revolution?

Pakistan received a major setback when at the initial stages, the indigenous people and their languages & cultures were completely ignored and outside culture and language were imposed on the country. Resentment to such move was natural. The undemocratic moves to overthrow provincial governments in the initial days in East Bengal, NWFP (now PK), Sindh and Punjab at the whim of the Central government & forcible annexation of Balochistan were harbingers of what was in store for Pakistan. …

Read more : Indus Herald

BELGIUM and THE QUESTION OF IDENTITY

By: Abdul Khalique Junejo.

Holding of general elections and subsequent formation of government, some times coalitions, is just a routine matter and a normal course of life in the countries of Western Europe. But not so in the case of Belgium, the country considered and called to be the ‘Capital of Europe’ since it provides headquarters for European Union and the NATO. The recently held general elections in this tiny country of about 10 millions people made bigger and eye-catching head-lines in the world media; not for any ‘Landside Victory’ but because of a split mandate, a mandate that threatens to split the country. For example the news paper carried the headlines; “Separatists claim victory in Belgian election”. These developments have generated extraordinary interest in this part of the world as many regions /peoples here are encountering the problems of similar nature.

Belgium, being situated between France and Holland, is a bi-lingual country comprising the French-speaking Wallonia people and Flemish-speaking Flanders. For many years the emphasis on the linguistic identity has been on the rise and recently quite vociferous voices have been heard for the dissolution of Belgium and creation of a separate country for the Flemish-speaking people of Dutch origin. New Flemish Alliance, the party advocating for separate country, has emerged as the largest party, not only among the Flanders but in the country as a whole. This has given an exceeding impetus to the demands for the parting of ways between the Flanders and the Wallonia.

Pakistan was created by conjoining of different peoples with their own distinct identity based on history, language and culture. After creation of the new country, these peoples (Bengalis, Sindhis, Balochs etc) started demanding recognition of their identity and asking for the promotion of their culture and language. In response the state-organs used the force of gun and the state-intellectuals used the force of pen to suppress such demands and, instead, promote and impose ‘single identity, single language and single culture’. This ‘strategy’ created strong reaction which manifested itself in the shape of mass movements for the ‘restoration’ of different identities.

One of these movements, Bengali, culminated in the ‘split’ of Pakistan and creation of a new country. Bangladesh while Sindhi and Baloch movements are getting fiercer by the time.

Continue reading BELGIUM and THE QUESTION OF IDENTITY

Pakistan’s gurus of corruption: the US and India

Dr Manzur Ejaz

… Oftentimes, when I am writing my weekly column about topics in Pakistan, I feel as if I am writing an obituary or a poem about a lost battle. After one has described the degenerated patterns of Pakistan’s ruling class as the root cause of the country’s intractable problems and disastrous situation, one looks for cures. Naturally, one looks at the region around Pakistan or the countries that are influencing the direction the country is taking, i.e. the US and other industrialised nations. …

Read more : Wichaar

Does Pakistan make sense? — Haider Nizamani

State and nation alignment is an ideal that very few, if any, states in the world meet. As a result, when overly centralised states like Pakistan try to erase social and political differences within a diverse society like theirs, in the name of creating a ‘true Pakistani’, the project is bound to be challenged.

Continue reading Does Pakistan make sense? — Haider Nizamani

A talk in Toronto on The National Question in Pakistan.

Dr. Haider Nizamani (PhD, University of British Columbia) has taught courses on various aspects of the politics of South Asia, the developing world and global issues. His writings have appeared in several academic journals. He is visiting research fellow at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in Islamabad. Dr. Nizamani regularly contributes articles on topical issues in Pakistan – including the national question on which he is very knowledgeable – to the op-ed pages of Dawn, the country’s oldest and largest circulation English newspaper.

Sunday, July 18, (2.30 – 5 p.m.) North York Central Library, Room 1 (5120 Yonge Street, Toronto, ON, M2N 5N9

Organized by: Committee of Progressive Pakistan-Canadians and South Asian People’s Forum, Endorsed by: Family of the Heart, Pashtun Peace Forum, Left Institute.

Who runs Pakistan?

pakistan-federal-assemblyPlease pause for honest soul searching!
by Babar Ayaz
The writer can be reached at: ayazbabar@gmail.com
Courtesy and thanks: babarayaz.wordpress.com
A German journalist, who heads the South Asia Bureau of ARD Radio and is based in New Delhi, was visiting Pakistan last week. His question to me was very direct and blunt: “Who runs Pakistan?” By implication the question was loaded, as it means that there is a doubt in the international community that the new democratic government is the real ruler. In the context of the recent Mumbai attack, it also shows that the thrust of the reporter’s story would be that the PPP-led government is not controlling the India policy of Pakistan. So, all the talk of President Zardari to open up trade and investment doors between the two countries is at best his personal opinion.

Continue reading Who runs Pakistan?