Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Manifesto for a generation

Have Pakistani youth given up hope! Hope that Pakistan can be pulled out of the crisis it is in at the moment. Hope that lasting change is within reach!

Pakistani youth involved in writing of "The Next Generation" report by the British Council were asked to create a manifesto for their generation listing the goals they beleived young Pakistnis should set themselves and their peers in the pursuit of positive change for Pakistan. A group of young people from my home town Lahore came with the following manifesto:
  • Zero tolerance towards corruption.
  • Thou shall judge your fellow human beings based on nothing but his/her merit.
  • Teach Pakistan, server Pakistan. I pledge to spend at least 4 hours per month for 5 years teaching in community service.
  • I shall read at least one book a year that is in direct conflict with my belief.
  • I will not discriminate.
  • I pledge to accept all my mistakes instead of justifying them.
  • I will not be a second-class citizen in my own country and not compromise Pakistan and its sovereignty while doing so.

Hope is not lost, yet!

The Next Generation - trials and tribulations of Pakistani youth

Headlines from recently launched report "Pakistan: the next Generation" by the British Council has taken many across the world by surprise. The report highlights that since 1980 (year when proportion of adults to children and old people reached its lowest level in Pakistan) there have been more young people in Pakistan than old. We are now a younger and increasingly urban society - half of Pakistani citizens are under twenty; two thirds have yet to reach their thirtieth birthday.

With more young people ready to join the work force and engage in making a difference Pakistani leadership has an opportunity to turn this into an economic development opportunity.
This demographic dividend first became available in the 1990s. The window of opportunity will close around 2045, by which time the society will be ageing rapidly. During this period, therefore, investment in the next generation will have a huge impact on Pakistan's long term prospects. The dividend doesn't come for free. It has to be earned.
Pakistan needs to educate its youth and make sure they are healthy; find them jobs as they get older and provide them with opportunities to save; and offer them ways of expressing their desire for social and political change.
Young people offer great promise for Pakistan's future, but only if they are equipped to lead productive, engaged and fulfilling lives. At present, this generation is in grave peril. It is starved of education and opportunities, and vulnerable to manipulation by those who do not have its best interests at heart. This [younger] generation is at a crossroads. Starved of opportunity, it feels bottled up and frustrated, trapped in a world where only the wealthy and the well-connected thrive. While few believe violence is justified, many understand its causes, believing that injustice and poor economic conditions are fuelling social unrest and terror.
According to the survey main areas of concern for young people in Pakistan are:

Economic survival: 72% of young people believe that their personal economic situation has got worse in the past year. Only one in ten are hopeful for things to get better in the near future. Of course, they are worried about terrorism and the security situation, but their main worries are day-to-day survival

Lack of trust in political leadership:
Disillusion with democracy is pronounced. Only around 10% have a great deal of confidence in national or local government, the courts, or the police. Only 39% voted in the last election; while half are not even on the voters' list.
Many in the media would like to read it as a vote of no confidence in President Zardari but that would be unfair. Young people are disillusioned by political elite in the country - not just by one political party or one individual. The political class is seen as selfish and corrupt:
“Politicians are busy in their own fighting and no one even cares or bothers". Many in the next generation do not believe Pakistan's leaders really want the country to change. And although they have ideas about the future, the next generation are convinced nobody is listening.

Trust in military and religion: Trust in the courts, police and local government is severely depleted, while only the military is widely trusted. This should be taken as a vote of confidence in Pakistan army as an institution - a sign that while general public despises General Musharraf's regime, Army has been able to re-establish its credibility at the most crucial time in our history.

Hunger for self expression:
Young people feel they have few platforms from where they can express themselves, while a failure to enforce basic civil liberties means that few young Pakistanis feel able to campaign for change. The next generation needs opportunities to express itself politically and to participate in building a cohesive society. Frustrate its ambitions or waste its energy, and you have a recipe for social failure and disruption.
The violence that has plagued Pakistan in recent times deters young people from attending school, going to work and socialising with their peers. It is a major impediment in achieving their goals. An overriding priority must be to expand access to education. The experience of other countries shows that rapid progress is possible, given political will, adequate funding, and effective delivery. Though the government is now committed to increasing expenditure on education to 7% of GDP by 2015, through its new National education Policy the Ministry of Education struggles to spend its current funding allocation highlighting issues with capacity for delivery.
Due to a lack of proper planning nearly twenty years of the [demographic] dividend have already been wasted...Time is running out to put appropriate policies in place...the absence of which may result in large scale unemployment and immense pressure on health and education systems. In short, a socio-economic crisis may take place, making the demographic dividend more of a demographic
The report acknowledges that the international community has failed Pakistan, while pursuing a myopic and narrow minded agenda that has not delivered any tangible improvement in the security of ordinary people.

Pakistan risks falling prey to a worsening cycle of poverty, polarisation and conflict, at a time when the population continues to increase rapidly and growing numbers of Pakistanis hunger for a better life. Demographic challenges place Pakistan at a crossroads. Action taken today will have an impact for a generation or more. Conversely, the country will reap the consequences of failure for decades to come."

It is heartening to note that despite their growing frustration, young people still love their country, with a majority believing it is the best country in the world to live in.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Scaremongering about Pakistani nukes

Writing for New Yorker Seymour Hersh has tried to launch image courtsey www.newyorker.comanother scaremongering campaign against the security of Pakistani nukes. But this time the boogyman is not the usual piniata - a fierce looking beareded Taliban from the North West. For a change he is raising doubts on the integrity of Pakistani armed forces
The principal fear is mutiny — that extremists inside the Pakistani military might stage a coup, take control of some nuclear assets, or even divert a warhead.
Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee of Pakistan Army General Tariq Majid objected:
We have operationalised a very effective nuclear security regime which incorporates very stringent custodial and access overall custodian of the development of our strategic programme, I reiterate in very unambiguous terms that there is absolutely no question of sharing or allowing any foreign individual, entity or a state, any access to sensitive information about our nuclear assets.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agrees
“We have confidence in the Pakistani government and the military’s control over nuclear weapons.”
Hersh has reiterated age old American desire of some how taking Pakistani nukes into "protective custody" to save it from barbaric Pakistanis.
Washington...has been negotiating highly sensitive understandings with the Pakistani military. These would allow specially trained American units to provide added security for the Pakistani arsenal in case of a crisis.
And to make matters worse he attempts to malign General Kiyani by branding him as another American stooge -

understandings on nuclear coöperation benefitted from the increasingly close relationship between Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Kayani, his counterpart, although the C.I.A. and the Departments of Defense, State, and Energy have also been involved.

American scaremongerers like Seymour Hersh need to come out of the wonderland they are living in. Before talking about mutiny in the Pakistan army and trying to help secure our nukes you better pay attention to securing Fort Hood.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Self regulation by Pakistani media and government attempts to curb its freedom

In September I wrote on Increasing bad taste and need for self regulation in Pakistani media

Two significant developments in Pakistan that have bearing upon freedom of Media are worth taking note of:

It has been reported that eight major electronic news outlets – KTN, Samaa, DawnNews, Dunya, Express News and Express 24/7, ARY, Geo and Aaj TV have reached an agreement on a code of conduct in terms of the coverage of terrorism. These channels have agreed upon a set of rules governing broadcast of images in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, the need for time-delays on live broadcasts, guidelines for covering hostage situations, the airing of demands and messages by terrorists, and the training and safety of news crews and reporters;

While news media is demonstrating sensitivity to public demand for this kind of code of conduct for self regulation the government appears to be going in the opposite direction. The National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting has decided to endorse laws restricting the independence of the electronic media. These are meant to be incorporated into the proposed Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority Act 2008. According to reports this is being done to ensure that nothing prejudicial to the ideology of Pakistan or the sovereignty and security of the state is propagated by TV journalists. This argument and the proposed new set of rules is open to misinterpretation and abuse - as has been at various stages in Pakistan's history where similar arguments have been used to throttle freedom of press and political opinion. These rules can amount to sheer censorship and the muzzling of dissent and criticism.

While we should fully endorse and support the steps taken by the electronic media self regulate and to introduce a code of conduct lets hope that attempts to curb their independence by the current political establishment, that owes its very existence to this free media, is checked by the National Assembly. I sincerely hope that this is not one of the long list of suicidal political gaffes by our current lords and masters.

Silence of the Sharifs - by Dr Nazir Ahmed

Dr Nazir Ahmad, an eminent psychiatrist from Cheshire and an overseas Pakistani who is hurting at the political situation in Pakistan wrote the following piece for Bazm-e-Iqbal on the inefficiency of the political opposition in current political crisis in Pakistan.

Nawaz Sharif [most popular political leader in Pakistan, if polls are to be believed] appears to be in a daze and confused. His inactivity and inefficiency as leader of the opposition is shocking. He gropes for responses to simple questions [in media interviews]. For example when asked whether he support the military action [against Taliban in North West Pakistan] He appears completely lame, blank and devoid of ideas.

Any claim that this mysterious behaviour is actually a positive attribute - an attempt to avoid destabilising the political system is yet another joke that no one is buying. This is in fact is an insult to the intelligence of Pakistani public.

When his brother’s government [of Punjab province] was toppled [by an executive order of the President] the reaction by Sharif [brothers] was way over the top, one political rally after another followed repeated personal attacks on president Zardari. Message from Sharifs to the central government was clear - either put us back in charge of Punjab or we don’t care if this leads to wrapping of the whole political system once more.

The only understandable difference between then and now is that then it was seen by Sharifs as a personal assault and loss and Sharif’s decided to deal with the situation in a fitting manner, with full vigour, determination and had clearly laid outcome measures nothing short of regaining Punjab government. When however it comes to the interest of Pakistani people he has nothing to say.

But he has nothing to say when it is evident that most of the over eight dozen ministers have put the country up for sale, when the country is brought to a stand still by bomb blasts, when a legislation that stipulates all looters and plunderers are free to go and in the future its legal to kill, steal and plunder, when people spend all their day looking for flour and sugar and low wages and joblessness is pushing people to suicides or selling their children. His argument - he has nothing to say because that will endanger the democracy!

He did not say much in his tax returns to the election commission either. He revealed he has five thousand rupees and has property worth 10 million. I am confident Nawaz Sharif will soon be regretting his obsession with restoring the independent judiciary, as well. Rhetoric is one thing and accountability to honest judiciary another thing. He earned relentless praise while on moral high ground at the time but the question is when the judiciary exercise its power before which all are equal. Will Nawaz Sharif regret his endeavours. Why? Because if he was really as reformed as he tried and lead us to believe after his return from exile “I am now not that old Nawaz Sharif” “You will see a lot of difference in me now” he would have thought long and hard about his duty to this nation as a high stature opposition leader of this country in huge trouble.

Similarly his tax return forms would have had different details. You don’t have to be his accountant to tell it’s full of inaccurate information - in fact, lies. It is very naïve of him and his advisors not to realise that it was not going to go unnoticed by our ever enthusiastic media (most of whom luckily are on the public spirited, apart from some “gold diggers” who have rendered their services to Zardari (this name also literally means gold digger)), is active day and night, quite to the expectation of its viewers.

This very irresponsible act of double standards of a supposedly very responsible person should simply lead to rejection of his papers. What this also proves is sadly Nawaz Sharif has learned nothing from his eight years of dishonour including stripping from Prime Ministerial powers, forced exile, confiscation of businesses and properties, forced conditions on the next ten years of his political life, how he is to live and miserable state of mind. His actions are suspect and his explanations fall way beyond any man with an iota of common sense will accept.

He appears to be very much playing double games and posturing which is aimed at grabbing power prematurely rather than ensuring that under all circumstances the current political regime is allowed to complete its term but that he ensures Pakistan is run like Quaid Azam would have liked to run not the way Zardari is running it, like an underworld don. He failed miserably in his duty to the luckless people of Pakistan, yet again.

He should without any doubt pursue his course for seeking punishment for Musharraf in a persistent and determined manner but he has other and more pressing duties as well. Keep the pressure on Musharraf (which he seems to have suddenly turned off since his recent trip to Saudi Arabia) but help build this nation as well.

He doesn’t have indefinite time to come up with a robust policy and clarity of views. I hope he is aware of advice from Nelson Mandela “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” He needs to establish a shadow cabinet for each major ministry to regularly monitor the performance of ministers and ministries, to voice clearly his views on Taliban.

Pakistani public now believe violence has no place in our society so Taliban either give up their arms or should face the consequences, and he should without any lapse of time speak on all issues of national importance with clarity. He needs to trust his financial managers more and send them on endless rounds to Dubai and UK and needs to spend more time inside the country and support the poor people of Pakistan in these testing times, people who despite his dismal previous performances and bowing before dictator and leaving the country rather than confronting him gave him yet another chance. Don't let them question - did he deserve their loyalty?

Monday, 2 November 2009

Clinton puzzled by Pakistan

Hillary Clinton is apparently puzzled that Pakistanis do not know the whereabouts of Al Qaeda leadership. According to Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's said on Thursday it was "hard to believe" that no one in Pakistan's government knew where al Qaeda leaders were hiding, striking a new tone on a trip where Washington's credibility has come under attack.
I am puzzled that US almighty who can spot drops of water on planet Mars can not pick out the most famous bearded face on earth from a bunch of Pathans from North West Pakistan - if he is really there alive and kicking. With the technological advances that help a lowly operator sitting in a remote CIA building in US wreck havoc on a far off village in Pakistan using unmanned drones, with the Blackwater operatives and other mercenaries active on the ground and with 24/7 monitoring of Pakistan through satellites, the US has been unable to seek and destroy those for whom Mrs Clinton is admonishing Pakistan in failing to apprehend.

I am not for a moment denying that Pakistan have a massive problem to deal with on the Afghan borders but US attempts to bully Pakistan into focussing only on the western borders is as foolish as was the US departure from the region after having internationalised the Afghan Jihad. Problem in Pakistan is no more restricted to Taliban (a very loose term by all accounts) in the West any more. Tentacles of religion based terrorism are now spread into moderate Punjab and are at at risk of becoming unmanageable.

While the number of ordinary Pakistanis killed during the last month crossing the 300 mark Secretary of State could not find a formal link between Indian role in flaming insurgency in Baluchistan and RAW's hand in arming terrorism in NWFP but she also couldn't use her pressure to keep the buffoons like the Indian Defence Minister from adopting threatening postures.

I agree that current Pakistani establishment needs political pressure to keep up with the battle with Taliban. But US needs to realise that Taliban are only once piece of the Jigsaw if a long term and decisive victory against terrorism is to be achieved.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

NRO - the new swear word in Pakistani politics

Steal (on a grand scale) and you will be protected by the law. That is the message Pakistani Parliament is about to send to crooks in waiting. A Parliamentary committee has approved to submit the NRO to the Parliament for its approval.

NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated by General Musharraf before he committed political suicide) is now an established swear word in Pakistani politics. To secure his own political future the General granted a presidential amnesty from prosecution to all who had looted Pakistani exchequer on an incomparable scale - prime beneficiary of this ordinance was our sitting President Zardari.

President and majority of his allies who were direct beneficiaries of this amnesty have always claimed innocence and that all charges against them (including those that stood in the Swiss and other overseas courts) were politically motivated and that he could not expect justice when his political foes were in power and the judiciary under their control. That is not the case any more!!! He hold the most powerful political office in the country and the judiciary for all intent and purpose is independent. What stops him from getting his name cleared through the legal process - or is it that the Judiciary is independent and he can't take the risk.

To help all wannabe crooks in the world who can in any way influence their governments I am copying below the full text of the National Reconciliation Ordinance from Pakistan for them to use as a template to get state protection for plundering and looting and getting away with it. Please remember to add General Musharraf to your Christmas cards list to thank him for this handy piece of work. You don't need to do that for President Zardari and his political allies because they would have stolen the Christmas cake baked by your granny and eaten it by the time you know it and wouldn't be able to do anything because they are protected by the NRO.

October 5, 2007

"AN ORDINANCE to promote national reconciliation

WHEREAS it is expedient to promote national reconciliation, foster mutual trust and confidence amongst holders of public office and remove the vestiges of political vendetta and victimisation, to make the election process more transparent and to amend certain laws for that purpose and for matters connected therewith and ancillary thereto:

AND WHEREAS the National Assembly is not in session and the president is satisfied that circumstances exist, which render it necessary to take immediate action;

NOW, THEREFORE, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (1) of Article (89) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the president is pleased to make and promulgate the following Ordinance:

1. Short title and commencement.

(1) This ordinance may be called the National Reconciliation Ordinance, 2007

(2) It shall come into force at once.

2. Amendment of section 494, Act V of 1898.

In the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (Act V of 1898), section 494 shall be renumbered as sub-section (1) thereof and after sub-section (1) renumbered as aforesaid, the following sub-section (2) and (3) shall be added, namely:

"(2) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in sub-section(1), the federal government or a provincial government may, before the judgment is pronounced by a trial court, withdraw from the prosecution of any person including an absconding accused who is found to be falsely involved for political reasons or through political victimization in any case initiated between 1st day of January, 1986 to 12th day of October, 1999 and upon such withdrawal clause (a) and clause (b) of sub-section (1) shall apply.

(3) For the purposes of exercise of powers under sub-section (2) the federal government and the provincial government may each constitute a review board to review the entire record of the case and furnish recommendations as to their withdrawal or otherwise.

(4) The review board in case of Federal Government shall be headed by a retired judge of the Supreme Court with Attorney-General and Federal Law Secretary as its members and in case of Provincial Government it shall be headed by a retired judge of the high court with Advocate-General and/or Prosecutor-General and Provincial Law Secretary as its members.

(5) A review board undertaking review of a case may direct the public prosecutor or any other authority concerned to furnish to it the record of the case."

3. Amendment of section 39, Act LXXXV of 1976.- (1) In the Representation of the People Act, 1976 (LXXXV of 1976), in section 39, after sub-section (6), the following new sub-section (7) shall be added, namely:

"(7) After consolidation of results the Returning Officer shall give to such contesting candidates and their election agents as are present during the consolidation proceedings, a copy of the result of the count notified to the commission immediately against proper receipt and shall also post a copy thereof to the other candidates and election agents".

4. Amendment of section 18, Ordinance XVIII of 1999.

In the National Accountability Ordinance, 1999 (XVIII of 1999), hereinafter referred to as the said Ordinance, in section 18, in clause (e), for the full stop at the end a colon shall be substituted and thereafter the following proviso shall be added, namely:

"Provided that no sitting member of Parliament or a Provincial Assembly shall be arrested without taking into consideration the recommendations of the Special Parliamentary Committee on Ethics referred to in clause (aa) or Special Committee of the Provincial Assembly on Ethics referred to in clause (aaa) of section 24, respectively."

5. Amendment of section 24, Ordinance XVIII of 1999.

In the said ordinance, in section 24, (i) in clause (a) for the full stop at the end a colon shall be substituted and thereafter the following proviso shall be inserted, namely.

"Provided that no sitting member of Parliament or a Provincial Assembly shall be arrested without taking into consideration the recommendations of Special Parliamentary Committee on Ethics or Special Committee of the Provincial Assembly on Ethics referred to in clause (aa) and (aaa), respectively, before which the entire material and evidence shall be placed by the chairman, NAB."; and (ii) after clause (a), amended as aforesaid, the following new clauses (aa) and (aaa) shall be inserted, namely;

(aa) The Special Parliamentary Committee on Ethics referred to in the proviso to clause (a) above shall consist of a chairman who shall be a member of either House of Parliament and eight members each from the National Assembly and Senate to be selected by the Speaker, National Assembly and Chairman Senate, respectively, on the recommendations of Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition of their respective houses, with equal representation from both sides.

(aaa) The Special Committee of the Provincial Assembly on Ethics shall consist of a chairman and eight members to be selected by the Speaker of the Provincial Assembly on the recommendation of Leader of the House and Leader of the Opposition, with equal representation from both sides."

6. Amendment of section 31A, Ordinance XVIII of 1999.

In the said Ordinance, in section 31A, in clause (a), for the full stop at the end a colon shall be substituted and thereafter the following new clause (aa) shall be inserted, namely:

"(aa) An order or judgement passed by the Court in absentia against an accused is void ab initio and shall not be acted upon."

7. Insertion of new section, Ordinance, XVIII of 1999.

In the said Ordinance, after section 33, the following new section shall be inserted, namely:

"33A. Withdrawal and termination of prolonged pending proceedings initiated prior to 12th October, 1999.

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Ordinance or any other law for the time being in force, proceedings under investigation or pending in any court including a high court and the Supreme Court of Pakistan initiated by or on a reference by the National Accountability Bureau inside or outside Pakistan, including proceedings continued under section 33, requests for mutual assistance and civil party to proceedings initiated by the Federal Government before the 12th day of October, 1999 against holders of public office stand withdrawn and terminated with immediate effect and such holders of public office shall also not be liable to any action in future as well under this Ordinance for acts having been done in good faith before the said date;

Provided that those proceedings shall not be withdrawn and terminated which relate to cases registered in connection with the cooperative societies and other financial and investment companies or in which no appeal, revision or constitutional petition has been filed against final judgement and order of the Court or in which an appellate or revisional order or an order in constitutional petition has become final or in which voluntary return or plea bargain has been accepted by the Chairman, National Accountability Bureau under section 25 or recommendations of the Conciliation Committee have been accepted by the Governor, State bank of Pakistan under section 25A.

(2) No action or claim by way of suit, prosecution, complaint or other civil or criminal proceeding shall lie against the Federal, Provincial or Local Government, the National Accountability Bureau or any of their officers and functionaries for any act or thing done or intended to be done in good faith pursuant to the withdrawal and termination of cases under sub-section (1) unless they have deliberately misused authority in violation of law."