Price of peace
2:36 PM | Author: Kamran Islam
Published in The News date 27 Feb 2010

Price of peace
By Waqar Gillani

If you are a peace activist and want to raise voice for peace between India and Pakistan by exchanging delegates, it is hard to be on either part of the border. You might consider yourself an activist but the mighty establishments and security agencies think otherwise – for them you are either a "spy" or worst still a "terrorist".
These forces have a leading role in scanning each and every visa application before stamping it.
Pak-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) is a registered forum of peace activists from both sides, established about 16 years ago. A joint meeting of the forum has not been possible in the past four years because of non-issuance of visas to activists on both sides.
This is not the first time that the peace activists have been denied visa. "Even Pakistani activists scheduled to go to India for a joint convention could not make it and the joint convention had to be cancelled," Kamran Islam, coordinator PIPFPD tells TNS.
"We are unable to hold a joint convention either in India or Pakistan. This time, the forum has scheduled its convention in Jammu. The date of the convention has twice been postponed because of visa rejection and it is feared that it may not be held even on the scheduled dates in March because delaying tactics are still being used by the Indian embassy," he says.
Islam points out that Pakistani embassy had not issued visa to the 11 members of the core committee of the forum to attend a meeting scheduled in Pakistan in February.
"This is the price for raising voice for peace which we are paying," he says.
These are the activists who have accepted that certain issues like Kashmir are controversial, a stance denied by the Indian establishment and the governments. "This is what we have achieved through peace activism in 60 years. We have declared Kashmir as a disputed area which the establishment and the government of India always deny," says IA Rehman, secretary general Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and an active member of the PIPFPD.
"Peace activists on both sides have done something positive which governments on both sides could not do in the past 60 years," he maintains.
South Asian free Media Association (SAFMA), another established forum working for regional peace and harmony, has also proposed a visa free regime for recognised journalists in South Asia. It has managed exchange of journalists on both sides of border frequently and proposed a protocol for starting liberal visa regime through SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) framework.
Such peace prompting organisations have always been rejecting the current restrictive visa regime and restrictions on the free movement of people, goods and information. They call upon the governments and the people to revise visa regime and allow a liberal visa on the border posts and other entry-exist points while exempting journalists, business people, academicians, artists, writers, students and elderly from the formalities of visa.
The interesting point is that both countries do not issue visa for tourism but mostly for religious rituals etc. "It is not a tourism visa regime," says Tapan Bose, the secretary general of Indian chapter of the PIPFPD, who recently visited Pakistan to raise the voice for making visa procedures easy.
"We want visa on arrival like its happening in many other countries of South Asia such as Nepal, Sri Lanka etc," he says. "This can serve as clear example that bigotry between the both countries is decreasing and there is an openness to allow the peoples on both sides to come and go."
This also can promote tourism, trade and business activities. But instead of focusing on such peace promoting steps like making a liberal visa regime, both nuclear states have fast increased their defence expenditures, says Bose. "Both nuclear states failed to decrease their conventional arms and forces despite promises after attaining the status of nuclear power. India is even ahead in defence expenditures."
Pakistan and India had many consulates on both sides before 1990s. Pakistan had its consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata while India had in Karachi. But these consulates were closed after serious blow to the Pak-India ties in 1990s.
The visas issued by Pakistan to Indians are mostly on religious grounds — to the Sikh community. The visa clearance on both sides involves security agencies. The visitors on both sides also require a "police report" after they cross either side of the border to keep proper eye on their activities.
This lengthy and cumbersome procedure of visa adds to the worries of peace activists.
"We want more consulates and reopening of the previously closed offices of both countries on the other side of the border," says Dr Mubashir Hasan, noted peace activist. He suggests that there should be one window operation for the issuance of visa to ease out the problems of the activists. "Visa is the first and primary but the most important permit to promote peace which should be made easy," he demands, adding, "That is why the governments on both sides have made it strict so that there should be least exchange and less talks of peace by people."
Peace activists on both sides firmly believe in continuing to raise voice for peace despite visa odds. "We hope that the start of composite dialogues between the both countries after more than one year gap because of Mumbai attacks will be helpful in prompting peace through exchanging more and more delegations," wishes Bose.
"All issues should be resolved issues while continuing talks and friendship."
Between two fundamentalists
8:34 PM | Author: Kamran Islam
Published in “The Nation” dated 30 April 2009

Between two fundamentalists
By Dr Mubashir Hasan Published: April 30, 2009

Pakistan has worked itself in a squeeze between two fundamentalists: the United States of America and the "Taliban". The former believes in its ideals and its Manifest (read Imperial) Destiny as if they were ordained by God Almighty, while the latter derive their mandate from the Word in the Holy Quran as they deem to interpret it. Both believe in imposing their doctrines through violent means. Both are engaged in a brutal bloody war with each other.
The United States is a mighty superpower which had hardly ever lost a war in its young history until it suffered its first major defeat in Vietnam. The retreat of its armed might, called "Strategic withdrawals", followed from Lebanon, Somalia and other places and currently one is in progress from Iraq as a result of armed resistance by the natives of those lands. The American and NATO military commanders correctly hold that military victory is not possible in Afghanistan where they are facing formidable guerilla resistance. They call their war against the people of Afghanistan as a war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda.Throughout history, the people of Afghanistan have defeated all types of adventurers seeking imperial domination over them. Indeed they have named a mountain range in their land: the Hindu Kush (Hindu killer) to celebrate their victories against the mighty kings of highly advanced Indian civilization over a period of thousands of years. After frustrating the military ventures of the British in the nineteenth, the Soviets' in the twentieth and the American in the twenty-first centuries, they might rename their land as Farangi kush.
The Pushto speaking tribes living on the western border of Pakistan and the eastern border of Afghanistan, maintaining their separate tribal entity are, as a whole Afghans for all practical purposes. No immigration barriers, no currency regulations and no custom barriers, across what is now Pak-Afghan border, have existed between them throughout the ages. No laws of Islamabad or Kabul, overriding their tribal autonomy, apply over them irrespective of the pretences of the two capitals. One son of a family may join Afghan air force while the other son may be serving the defence establishment of Pakistan; the Afghans are so astute that a third son may choose to remain "neutral".
In the prevailing complex situation of American-Afghan war, no wonder that the divided loyalties of the elites of Pakistan have placed the government, they preside over on the horns of a terrible dilemma. The elites comprise the leaderships of civil and military services and their associates in the business community and landed and political aristocracy. They find it perilous to decide which of the two fundamentalist they should support. For decades, they have positioned the state of Pakistan perennially dependent on the assistance from America and international financial development institutions. For the purchase of crucial armaments for defence forces they also depend upon the United States. They show by their conduct that their loyalty to the United States is essential for their existence.On the other hand, the elites of Pakistan are obliged to compromise their loyalty to the United States by not acting against the opinion of an overwhelming majority of the people of Pakistan. The people consider America as the enemy harbouring evil intentions against Pakistan and Islam. The people believe that the government at Islamabad is a client of the US government and on that count they refuse to cooperate with the government to prevent attacks even on their on police and military personnel.
Another vital handicap: the government of Pakistan no longer has available the services of a machinery of the state as it once had in the days of governor General Ghulam Mohammad or dictators Ayub Khan or Zia-ul-Haq. What is available to Zardari-Gilani and company is a huge mostly corrupted mass of bureaucratic structure with shattered morale brought about by corruption at upper levels of the civilian ruling elites.Now, Pakistan need not be a client state. It is not a small country, its area is large. Its population of more than 160 million is alive and kicking - for the present in non-constructive mode. It is not a weak country as none of its neighbours, Iran, Afghanistan, China or India, have ever entertained the notion of dominating it militarily. Above all, Pakistan is not a poor country. Year after year, it is a net exporter of capital of about 4 to 8 billion dollars through legal and illegal channels. In the early seventies, following the 1971 war defeat and in the teeth of opposition from the United States with zero financial assistance from Washington, the government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was able to make the country proudly stand on its own in a two-and-a-half-year period.What Pakistan needs today is a federal state structure which derives its power from the provinces, a democratic governance in which people can protect their life and property and dispense justice just as they do in North American and Scandinavian countries along with a fresh set of laws to govern property relations to prevent wanton loot and plunder by proprietary classes and above all, a foreign policy change which removes from it the stigma of being a client state of the USA. And that is the only way to come out of the squeeze Pakistan has worked itself in. We may also keep in mind that the United States would every time prefer a friendly upright and dignified state over a client state.
Pakistan: a Path through Danger
2:45 PM | Author: Kamran Islam
Pakistan: a Path through Danger

by Asma Jahangir

Pakistan has in the last two years been living through some of the worst moments of its history - as well as its most promising. The relentless violence, assassinations, mass arrests, the imposition of emergency rule and rising militancy have been devastating for the country. At the same time, the people's resistance to authoritarianism, their rejection through the ballot-box of political forces aligned to the military, and their opposition to undemocratic moves by the civilian government are hopeful signs for democracy.
The extraordinary story of what has happened in the 2007-09 period suggests that the intersection of these trends leaves Pakistan now poised between two very different possible futures.
The inside track
The oppressive regime of General Pervez Musharraf, who had seized power in October 1999, appeared at the start of 2007 to be well entrenched. There was great social discontent, and many Pakistanis were in despair. Then on 9 March 2007 the general-president unceremoniously removed from office Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, the chief justice of Pakistan. This sacking of a popular and independent figure provoked a spontaneous rebellion by the legal fraternity, enthusiastically backed by many sections of society. The army and the president were unprepared for this widespread movement against the military regime. They assumed that as so often before the government would control the situation in characteristic fashion: by brute power or worse (as when political leaders in Balochistan had been hunted down and killed). They also expected that the George W Bush administration would find some way of rescuing Pervez Musharraf.
To an extent, an attempt was made to do precisely that. A plan was hatched in Washington and London to cobble together an alliance between Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto (the exiled leader of the opposition Pakistan People's Party [PPP]) - that, it was hoped, might defuse the situation. It was a classic "fix" by the foreign allies and spin-masters of the Pakistani state and Bhutto alike, who in their wisdom had carved out a clean and convenient formula of military-civilian partnership to take forward the "war on terror".
Such plans have a way in Pakistan of being sabotaged by their supposed beneficiaries. In this case, Musharraf did not relent from his authoritarian path, even as he promised fair and free parliamentary elections. He was given another five-year presidential term by national and provincial assemblies on 6 October 2007, then imposed a state of "emergency plus" on 3 November. This compelled Benazir Bhutto to turn to other political forces and Pakistani civil society for support, dismaying those in the west who had promoted her inside track to power. Alas, the process in any case took a violent turn when Benazir Bhutto, two months after her return from exile, was tragically assassinated on 27 December 2007 at a campaign rally. The perpetrators - again, as so often in Pakistan - have so far evaded arrest and justice.
The politics of control
Amid spiralling violence in early 2008, Islamic militants were able to capture the tribal areas of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and other parts of the province too. A combination of financial crisis and energy shortages further worsened the situation. The election, postponed after Benazir Bhutto's death, was held on 18 February 2008, with the PPP winning a larger number of seats than the other main opposition party, Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (PML [N)]). The return of democracy - marked by a short-lived coalition between the PPP and PML (N), which broke up on 25 August - placed great pressure on Musharraf. He resigned the presidency of Pakistan on 18 August, to be replaced on 6 September by Benazir's widower, Asif Ali Zardari. Musharraf followed by transferring the leadership of the army to General Ashfaq Kayani on 28 November 2007.
Asif Ali Zardari, the new president, had never been popular among Pakistanis, but was tolerated as an alternative to military rule. He had cleverly used the slogan of national reconciliation to sneak his way into becoming head of state, and once there went back on all the public promises he had made of restoring all the judges and respecting the supremacy of parliament. The much promised "national reconciliation" gave way to nepotism and intrigue.
In these circumstances, the unity and morale of the lawyers' movement that had demanded the rule of law and energised the public were damaged when a number of deposed judges conditionally agreed to rejoin the judiciary at the PPP's invitation. Some lawyers were tempted - and bought - by offers of promotion.
The effect of the election had been to focus energy on the high-level political process and away from civil society. But the passing of the presidency to Asif Ali Zardari did not change the fact that the judiciary remained weak and corrupt, and delivered its judgments at the bidding of the head of state. This politicisation of the judiciary again became a key issue when Pakistan's supreme court passed an order disqualifying from office Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz, Zardari's main opponents who were in power in the largest province of the country (Punjab).
On 25 February 2009, as soon as the judgment was made, the president imposed "governor rule" in Punjab and the doors of the provincial parliament were locked so that it could not meet to elect its leader. Moreover, decrees were issued granting amnesty to those accused of corruption and other charges.
The triumphal march
The lawyers had already announced a "long march" to the capital, Islamabad - a last desperate attempt to stage a sit-in outside of parliament until the judges (especially the deposed Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry) were restored. Now they had the backing of the second largest political party in the country, as well as of thousands of outraged citizens who believed that their new president had gone too far.
The government overreacted to the long march. It was a reminder of the Musharraf days and their destructive legacy. The security forces confiscated lorries carrying goods in order to block roads and barricade the capital. Several lawyers and political activists were arrested, beaten, threatened, and locked in their houses. Despite this, more and more people defied the curbs placed on their movement, gathering in Lahore to move on to Islamabad.
As a last resort, the infamous interior ministry warned people that militants were planning an imminent bomb-attack and therefore the long march should be abandoned. But the people called this bluff and joined the march in Lahore. An estimated one million people were on the roads.
The merciless beatings and use of tear-gas did not deter the crowds. Eventually the police chief gave up and Islamabad panicked. The prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and the army chief, with the support of foreign diplomats, won agreement from the president to restore the chief justice and find a way to settle the Punjab dispute.
Thus, in the early hours of 16 March, the prime minister addressed the nation and announced that the demands of the marchers had been accepted, including (with effect from 21 March) the restoration of Chaudhry to his post. The long march - and Pakistani civil society more widely - had won a great victory over arbitrary power.
The top-down failure
But this is far from the end. The president is still in power and retains his capacity to foment trouble. Even as the people's (and the opposition's) victory was being celebrated, the presidency was manoeuvring to keep the elected government of Punjab out in the cold, in part by approaching judges who could be "persuaded" to make the right decisions. A meeting between the prime minister and Nawaz Sharif may lead to the restoration of the Punjab government, though this will be only one concession among many infractions.
The way the president exercises power invites a dangerous intervention by the military. It also shifts the focus of governance away from far more pressing issues such as the spread of militancy. Even as the crisis over the judiciary and the rule of law has escalated in Pakistan, Islamic militants in other parts of the country have set up their own lawyer-free judicial system. It perpetrates rough and easy justice, among other things pushing back women behind four walls. The chief justice may have resumed work but the judicial system in Swat and Malakand (to name only those) has been hijacked by religious zealots.
These two years have been tumultuous. Pakistan's leaders, and their foreign allies, have thought that they could impose top-down solutions and thus secure power and subdue the Pakistani people. The people have proved them wrong. But the crises afflicting the country remain. Pakistan has a long way to go before it can claim to have established a decent democratic system founded on respect for the rule of law.

Some lessons from the lawyers’ struggle
2:41 PM | Author: Kamran Islam
Published in Daily Dawn dated 11 April 2009

Some lessons from the lawyers’ struggle

By Abdul Khalique Junejo

W HEN the lawyers came out of the court rooms and the bar rooms on March 10, 2007 to protest against the illegal and unconstitutional removal of the chief justice of Pakistan by a military dictator, they had the force of only their commitment and sincerity with them. But by March 12, 2009 their commitment, dedication and devotion to their cause had impressed and mobilised most sections of society which showed complete solidarity with the lawyers and voluntarily joined their movement in large numbers.
Pakistan’s 61-year history is a history of conflict and contention between the forces of status-quo and the forces of change. The establishment, comprising of civil and military bureaucracy, operates through the connivance and cooperation of the feudals and religious leaders. It is this ‘troika’ that has been ruling the country from the outset. Since West Pakistan, particularly Punjab, was the stronghold of this troika, it ruled the country though East Pakistan (Bengal) made the majority of the population.
Bengali people’s struggle for freedom, democracy and equality is well known and they continued it after becoming part of Pakistan and challenged the power of the ‘troika’. For 23 years Pakistan’s political scenario was dominated by the conflict between the establishment of West Pakistan and the masses of ‘East Pakistan’ led by secular Awami League. In 1971 this conflict ended with the creation of Bangladesh.
As the West Pakistan became the ‘New Pakistan’, the two stakeholders of the establishment switched their positions with military taking over the lead role and relegating bureaucracy to the secondary role. So, it was military-mullafeudal combine that heavily dominated the state and politics of Pakistan.
The first countrywide ‘anti-government’ movement was launched in 1977 against the regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. It was theocrats versus the feudals, although both were part of the same reactionary coalition having stakes in the status-quo. They were supported by America and the result was a change of faces. In fact the situation worsened as far as the interests of masses were concerned. We saw the worst face of the conglomeration of military, mulla and feudals under the umbrella of General Zia’s martial law.
The next ‘encounter’ was the MRD (Movement for Restoration of Democracy) movement. This time the roles had changed. The religious parties were now in league with the military while the feudals were on the streets. When the feudals saw the movement slipping out of their hands and posing a real threat to the system, they suddenly called it off.
The lawyers’ movement of 2007-09 is the first movement since 1971 which was initiated, planned and operated by a section of the emerging and asserting middle class. The role of free media proved to be a big advantage for the lawyers struggle. It connected their movement with the Pakistani masses as well as international community. Then, their total commitment, great courage and selflessness, particularly of the younger colleagues, made the movement for the restoration of judiciary a formidable force. So much so that the country’s two leading parties found an opportune moment to revive and reinvigorate their political ambitions under the shadow of this movement and their two leaders living abroad decided to return to Pakistan.
Sensing a threat to their basic interests, the dominant sections of the ruling classes started coming closer to each other, putting on back burner their ‘temporary and minor’ differences. This process of ‘reconciliation’ continued even after Feb 2008 elections and a string of agreements (open, secret and not-so-secret) between the establishment (security forces), feudals (PPP), industrialists and traders (PML-N) and the religious fundamentalists (Fazlur Rehman) followed. Promises between them and with the people were made and unmade, oaths were sworn and reneged and alliances were fabricated and finished. The political expediency was at its peak. All it was aimed at snatching the (impending) victory from the people and saving the system from outsiders.
The issue of reinstating the ‘deposed’ judges was deliberately prolonged in order to weaken the tempo of the lawyers’ movement, dampen the enthusiasm of the public and break the will of the protesting lawyers. But all credit goes to the black coats who sustained and strengthened their struggle against all odds.
In March, after getting disappointed from the ruling PPP for its antagonistic stance, the lawyers community decided to go for the final battle. They an nounced to begin a peaceful long march on March 12 from Karachi and Quetta and after passing through Sukkur, Multan and Lahore they would reach Islamabad on the 16th and stage a sit-in before parliament. Feeling concerned over the premature end of the previous long march the lawyers, particularly the younger ones, were determined to take the movement to its logical end.
Meanwhile, Mr Asif Ali Zardari’s advisers had suggested him to have the disqualification of Sharif brothers from electoral politics and the dismissal of the Shahbaz government in Punjab as a counter-measure to defeat the long march. This left Nawaz Sharif with no option but to join hands with the lawyers more vigorously; the restoration of the judiciary was already his basic demand. The components of APDM and most of the nationalist parties of Sindh and Balochistan were already backing the movement. But still the reins of the movement were in the hands of the lawyers belonging to the increasingly asserting middle class who were considered as outsiders by those who wielded power.
As the long march gathered momentum, so did their activities, visible and invisible. The all powerful figure of the power structure in Pakistan, the army chief, started shuttling between different actors and stakeholders and emissaries paid visits to the residences of the opposition leaders. The US, Britain and Saudi Arabia began playing their role to prevent a tragedy of unpredictable proportions. Ms Hillary talked to both Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif as Colin Powell had talked to General Musharaf though in a different tone keeping the difference of style, between Bush and Obama.
Since American interest in the politics of Pakistan has grown too much, the lady ambassador of the sole superpower made it her routine for a few days to have an early breakfast, leave her home, have meetings at the presidency, the PM house and the Raiwind farm and return home late in the evening.
The result was an agreement under which Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was restored along with remaining members of the pre-emergency judiciary. The agreement was a personal humiliation of Asif Zardari as he had made it a matter of his ego. An effort by the government to deny the credit of the success of the movement, which it had failed to break, to the lawyers and their support ers was visible. So it decided to give the credit to Mian Nawaz Sharif, another member of the ruling class but now in opposition. It seems that the scheme of things as announced in the early morning of March 16 was agreed upon and decided between the parties concerned a night earlier. No need to mention Shbaz’s famous sentence that “Judges would be restored before the long march reached Jhelum”.
At the moment both the parties and the establishment are trying to maintain status quo and the lawyers appear to be reasonably happy and satisfied; the former over their ‘success’ to save the established system and the latter on achieving what looked unachievable. The issue of restoration of Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry had become the bone of contention in the fight between the forces of status quo and the proponents of change. The local and international establishments were adamantly opposed to his restoration and had made it a point of prestige.
It was the first time since 1971 that the initiative had gone in the hands of anti-establishment forces bringing in the much needed change in the attitude of the people. They now can think and feel that the establishment, no matter how much strong it may be, can be challenged and challenged successfully. This confidence and conviction has always proved to be a major determinant in a protracted struggle and a weapon of the weak against the powerful.
So, the establishment in Pakistan once again succeeded but only partially and they managed to save the system. Some people criticise the movement calling it “a struggle given up half way”. I myself, being the part and parcel of this campaign, have many reservations about the strategies adopted and role played by the leadership at different junctures. But then we all know that the war for democratic rights has never been won in one battle.
It took European societies two to three centuries to win democracy. Given the facilities and opportunities of the 21st Century we may need two to three decades for the same. But for that we would have to be vigilant and continue the struggle from where lawyers have left it. In short, one can say that it is a struggle reached half way. ¦ The writer is a Karachi-based lawyer.
Gasfields: question of interest & ownership
2:35 PM | Author: Kamran Islam
Published in Dawn dated 26 April 2009

Gasfields: question of interest & ownership

A COUPLET goes: “What bad thing a good thing is, that everyone looks at it with bad intention”.The couplet is of Urdu language but it fits the most in the situation of Sindh.
Sindh, throughout its history, has been affluent, prosperous and peaceful, and these very characteristics have proved to be its anathema, inciting and inviting the invaders. Hence the Aryan, Greek, Arab, Arghun, Tarkhan Mughal and British conquests.
Since then human society has gone forward by leaps and multinational companies have taken/are taking over the monarchies and states as exploiters. Rich (in resources) and weaker (in weapons) nations/countries are their prime targets.
Sindh’s richness ( especially in oil, gas, coal, etc.) and its people’s penchant for peacefulness have made it one of the prime destinations and an easy object for these MNCs. And one of the latest entrants camping in Sindh nowadays is Petronas.
Based in Malaysia, this company is working on two (mainly) gasfields in Sindh. Rahmat gasfield situated in Ghotki district has potential gas reserves of 0.1 TCF out of which 0.03 TCF have been used, while about 30,000 barrels of oil are extracted annually, and the Mehar field situated at the juncture of Dadu and Qambar-Shahdadkot districts having gas reserves of 0.4 TCF.
The company has been working in Sindh for the last about 10 years without much notice by the media and political parties, perhaps because the reserves under its occupation are not very big as compared to some other companies. But here the cause of concern is not the quantity of the exploitation but the question of interest, ownership and control.
Morally, legally and religiously, the reserves beneath (any specific piece of) the land belong to the people living over that land. Gas and other resources are creation of millions of years of natural process and Sindhi people are living here since the known history of humankind.
So Sindhi people are the natural owners of the natural wealth lying under their loved land. But in the case of Petronas, and all other such companies, Sindhis are not even considered as stakeholders.
There are three actors who share the ‘ bounty’. First is the central government of Pakistan which on its own, through the Constitution of 1973, has acquired the total control over the gas and oil reserves.
Second is the MNC which, through the ministry of petroleum and natural resources, makes the deal with the government for sharing the ‘beneficence’.
The third party is the local feudal in the shape of MNA, MPA, nazim or ‘ sardar’ who is supposed to safeguard the interests of the area people, but barters these for his individual self in the shape of a commission.
In short, one can say that the state and the local influential facilitate the exploitation of indigenous resources by foreign companies and play the role of protectors and guardians of the interests of the exploiting MNCs.
The collective property of the people, gifted by nature, is expropriated by MNCs, the state and the local lords on the premise of local development. But even this part of the deal is not executed. The bigger chunk of the smaller amount of money reserved for the local development goes into the pockets of bureaucracy and the local ‘representatives’.
Last but not the least, Sindhis themselves are also the part of the problem. They cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility in failing to protect and preserve properly what is bequeathed to them. Particularly those Sindhis are more responsible who know more about this ‘plunder’ and the ones are still more culpable who are witness to such ‘daylight robbery’.
Jeay Sindh Mahaz
Karachi a couplet goes: “what bad thing a good thing is, that everyone looks at it with bad in- tention”.the couplet is of urdu language but it fits the most in the situation of sindh. sindh, throughout its histo- ry, has been affluent, prosper- ous and peaceful, and these very characteristics have proved to be its anathema, in- citing and inviting the invaders. hence the aryan, greek, arab, arghun, tarkhan mughal and british conquests. since then human society has gone forward by leaps and multinational companies have taken/are taking over the mo- narchies and states as exploit- ers. rich (in resources) and weaker (in weapons) na- tions/countries are their prime targets. sindh’s richness ( especially in oil, gas, coal, etc.) and its peo- ple’s penchant for peacefulness have made it one of the prime destinations and an easy object for these mncs. and one of the latest entrants camping in sindh nowadays is petronas. based in malaysia, this com- pany is working on two (mainly) gasfields in sindh. rahmat gas- field situated in ghotki district has potential gas reserves of 0.1 tcf out of which 0.03 tcf have been used, while about 30,000 barrels of oil are extracted an- nually, and the mehar field situ- ated at the juncture of dadu and qambar-shahdadkot dis- tricts having gas reserves of 0.4 tcf. the company has been work- ing in sindh for the last about 10 years without much notice by the media and political parties, perhaps because the reserves under its occupation are not very big as compared to some other companies. but here the cause of concern is not the quan- tity of the exploitation but the question of interest, ownership and control. morally, legally and reli- giously, the reserves beneath (any specific piece of) the land belong to the people living over that land. gas and other resour- ces are creation of millions of years of natural process and sindhi people are living here since the known history of hu- mankind. so sindhi people are the nat- ural owners of the natural wealth lying under their loved land. but in the case of petronas, and all other such companies, sindhis are not even considered as stakeholders. there are three actors who share the ‘ bounty’. first is the central government of pakistan which on its own, through the constitution of 1973, has ac- quired the total control over the gas and oil reserves. second is the mnc which, through the ministry of petrole- um and natural resources, makes the deal with the govern- ment for sharing the ‘benefi- cence’. the third party is the local feudal in the shape of mna, mpa, nazim or ‘ sardar’ who is supposed to safeguard the inter- ests of the area people, but bar- ters these for his individual self in the shape of a commission. in short, one can say that the state and the local influential facilitate the exploitation of in- digenous resources by foreign companies and play the role of protectors and guardians of the interests of the exploiting mncs. the collective property of the people, gifted by nature, is expropriated by mncs, the state and the local lords on the premise of local development. but even this part of the deal is not executed. the bigger chunk of the smaller amount of money reserved for the local develop- ment goes into the pockets of bureaucracy and the local ‘rep- resentatives’. last but not the least, sindhis themselves are also the part of the problem. they can- not absolve themselves of the responsibility in failing to pro- tect and preserve properly what is bequeathed to them. particularly those sindhis are more responsible who know more about this ‘plunder’ and the ones are still more culpable who are witness to such ‘day- light robbery’.
Abdul khalique junejo
jeay sindh mahaz
Security is the real issue
2:31 PM | Author: Kamran Islam
Published in daily Dawn dated 26 April 2009

Security is the real issue
By I.A. Rehman

Thursday, 23 Apr, 2009 02:44 AM PST

Today, all efforts must be concentrated on the issue of security — security of the state, all Muslim sects, women and of the ordinary Pakistani who only wishes to feed his child.

WATCHING with ill-concealed joy the federal government’s march into the ever-widening crises, the PML-N leader has decided to assemble his forces on the high ground of the Charter of Democracy (CoD), signed three years ago by him with the late Benazir Bhutto, and the PPP chief has fallen in line. But the people are yet to be enlightened about these parties’ priorities. True, the PML-N head has been demanding repeal of the 17th Amendment but that is only one of the 36 points in the CoD. Howsoever vitally necessary the demolition of the Musharraf edifice may be, this alone will guarantee neither democratic governance nor a solution to the people’s problems that no responsible government is expected to overlook. Quite obviously, the implementation of the CoD should be designed to overcome “the political crisis in our beloved homeland” described in the opening paragraph of the preamble to the document. The components of the crisis given in the CoD in order of importance are: i) the threats to the state’s survival; ii) the erosion of the federation’s unity; iii) the military’s subordination of all state institutions; iv) the marginalisation of civil society; v) the mockery of the constitution and representative institutions; vi) growing poverty, unemployment and inequality; vii) brutalisation of society; viii) breakdown of the rule of law; and ix) the unprecedented hardships facing the people. The steps listed in the CoD for the restoration of democracy do not address all the concerns mentioned in its preamble. The first 10 points deal with the constitutional amendments the authors of the CoD considered necessary. The proposals include deletion of the undesirable amendments to the basic law made by Gen Musharraf, reform of the judiciary with a view to strengthening its independence and a new procedure for the appointment of judges, merger of Fata with the NWFP and local bodies elections on party basis. The need to save the federation’s unity is disposed of in 16 words that call for abolition of the concurrent list and a new NFC Award (for the latter no constitutional amendment is required). The 16 points lumped together under the heading, ‘Code of Conduct’, cover both structural and policy reforms. The National Security Council is to be replaced with a restructured Defence Cabinet Committee and NAB will give way to a parliamentary commission. Several new commissions are proposed — a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a commission on Kargil and a National Democracy Commission. The ban on anyone becoming prime minister for the third time will go, the Kashmir issue will be solved in accordance with the UN resolutions, and women, minorities and the under-privileged will be provided with equal opportunities. The common citizen is to be helped by improving governance and giving him access to quality education, healthcare, job security and enforcing simplicity at all levels. Further, the electoral mandates of all representative governments are to be respected, and terrorism and militancy being by-products of military dictatorship and negation of democracy “are strongly condemned and will be vigorously confronted”. The next nine points are devoted to guarantees of free and fair elections and civil military relations, and at the end the Rules of Business at both the centre and in the provinces are proposed to be brought into harmony with the parliamentary form of government. What this reading of the Charter of Democracy shows is that the document was essentially a subjective response to the Musharraf dictatorship by two of its most prominent victims. Among other things they realised the need to abstain from seeking the military’s aid to oust each other from power. In other words, the CoD deals with legitimacy and form of government and not with the substance of governance. It is possible that some people believe that once the 17th Amendment is withdrawn and the prime minister made the executive head of state, hunger, unemployment, disease and ignorance will disappear and milk and honey will start flowing through the dry riverbeds of the country. Such simplistic essays in self-delusion have caused irreversible harm to many communities. Thus, the people’s expectations of the benefits to them in a democratic regime cannot be ignored while experts try to translate the CoD ideas into reality, a task that is bound to take much longer than anybody thinks. Not only the federal government but all provincial governments too must realise that lack of attention to the concerns of the poor and the under-privileged is causing the people frustration and disillusionment on a large scale. The danger of their alienation from democracy once again is manifest. A fundamental question is the need to address issues that have arisen since the CoD was signed. That such issues can supersede CoD commitments has been established by the priority allowed to the struggle for the restoration of judges. The CoD was silent on the subject because it had been drafted before Gen Musharraf turned his cannons on the judiciary, but for a variety of reasons that do not need to be recalled, the restoration of judges became the dominant issue with all the new converts to democracy. Today the people of Pakistan need all efforts to be concentrated on the issue of security — security of the state, security of all Muslim sects, security of women and members of minority communities, and the security of the ordinary Pakistani who only wishes to earn a loaf of bread to feed his starving child. The whirlwind that has already ravaged the Fata and Malakand Division is unlikely to allow the politicians in Islamabad and Lahore time to quibble over comas and full stops in the constitutional text. Besides the state’s integrity and the democratic system, cultures of all the communities in Pakistan’s federating units, the gains achieved after decades of pursuit of modern knowledge, all of our arts and literature, indeed the entire future of our children are at stake. At the moment nothing is more urgent than mobilisation of the instruments of state power and people’s energies to thwart the northern hordes’ drive to turn Pakistan into a forbidding wasteland. However pivotal a role in this all-important fight for survival one may assign Mr Zardari, the responsibility of Mian Nawaz Sharif is not a whit smaller. He may continue firing at the federal authority but it is time he took the field against pseudo-religious militants. Failure to do so will lead to conclusions completely unsavoury for him.
Published in Daily Dawn dated 21 April 2009
3:59 PM | Author: Kamran Islam
Published in Daily Dawn dated 21 April 2009

Lawyers’ movement and national question
Tuesday, 21 Apr, 2009 12:48 AM PST

THE recent movement of lawyers had, on the one hand, emerged from within society and, on the other hand, it stirred and spurred society unprecedently. Where it influenced and impacted almost all sections of Pakistani society, it also touched, in one way or the other, very vital and basic issues confronting this society and brought to the fore many aspects of these issues hitherto not realised and recognised properly and correctly. The ‘national question’ has been a crucial one agitating the Pakistani polity throughout. So much so that it proved to be the root-cause for the creation of Bangladesh and has been the pivotal problem behind all the political hustle and bustle in Sindh (and Balochistan). The ‘other party’ in the struggle for national rights has been Punjab. So whenever there was mention of national rights, the name of Punjab would automatically come to the fore. In return, Sindhis (and the Baloch) would be lablled as ‘chauvinists’, ‘narrow nationalists’, ‘reactionaries’, etc, etc.
After Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was removed unceremoniously and, while going to the court hearing, treated roughly, his first activity was a visit to the Rawalpindi Bar Association. The event saw charged and angry lawyers but nothing extraordinary happened. The next item on the chief justice’s schedule was his journey by road from Sukkur to Hyderabad. It was here that the things took a different turn. People of Sindh came out instantaneously in large numbers on both sides of the road from wherever he passed to accord him a hero’s welcome.
It was from here that the leaders of the lawyers’ community realised that the cause of restoration of the chief justice could be turned into a mass movement. And then what followed is just the recent history. It proved that Sindhis were real democrats and didn’t believe in ethnicity.
It is a fact that in the past Punjab had generally supported the dictators. This time the lawyers (and the assertive middle class) from Punjab, due to different reasons, not only opposed but challenged the act of a dictator and played a pivotal and vigorous role in leading the movement.
Hence the centre of the movement shifted to Punjab, particularly Lahore. The lawyers (and the people in general) from Sindh showed no hesitation and/or reservation in supporting them. This demonstrated that Sindhis were not ‘anti-Punjabis’ nor ‘narrow-nationalists’. Rather they were rightful people. Their support for or opposition to any idea, scheme, cause or people was based on principles of justice and righteousness.
The ‘success’ of the movement proved another point vis-a-vis the national question in Pakistan. It was for the first time after 1971 that the ‘real rulers’ retreated in the face of popular pressure. Though, during this period, we have witnessed many struggles and movements for national and/or democratic rights in Sindh and Balochistan but all those were met with an ‘iron hand’.
It proved that the status and standing of Punjab in the state structure of Pakistan is different from that of others. And this difference in the position and power of different units has been the real issue the nationalists of Sindh and Balochistan have been agitating against all along and demanding and trying to restructure the state where status of all the peoples is equal and all the ‘constituent units’ are ‘sovereign and autonomous’.
Jeay Sindh Mahaz
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