Political party launched for restoration of Bahawalpur province

Nawab Salahuddin Abbasi announcing launching of BNAP on April 14 at Sadiq Garh Palace, Ahmad Pur East

By Riaz Missen

Not many weeks have passed after Mr. Yusuf Raza Gilani announded to Jabalpur Pirwala on March 13, on the right bank of the Sutlej River, where he told a gathering that his party had made the mind about dividing Punjab and creating a new province comprising Seraiki regions, the regional forces have come together and formed Bahawalpur National Awami Party (BNAP) to remind him that the route to this end only passes through the restoration of the Bahawalpur province, which General Yahya Khan merged into Punjab when he announced the demise of One Unit in 1969. While the regionalists of the South Punjab think the formation of the BAP is the culmination point of their struggle against Takht-e-Lahore, the Seraiki nationalists have yet to know what boundaries the PPP has in mind for their proposed province.

The pro-province forces had become active right after the 2008 elections and the formation of coalition government in the Centre. The regional leadership reminded the PPP many times that its historic victory in Bahawalpur division was due to an understanding reached between the Nawab of Bahawalpur and Benazir Bhutto in London and not due to any change of hearts, but no clear assurance was made by the PPP leadership. The 18th amendment hurt the Bahawalpur leadership the most as Punjab, like many other provinces, got more resources and power without any assurance that the benefits would also reach to Bahawalpur as well.

Muhammad Ali Durani, who happens to be the only Senator from Bahawalpur, owes a lot credit to revive the movement for the restoration of Bahawalpur province. Though his activism brought him envy and contempt by the old lot who questioned his credentials and past conduct, but he remained determined and resolved in his mission. His ties with media, which he cultivated as information minister during Musharraf era, helped him to bring forth vital statistics regarding the plundering of the Bahawalpur resources as well as its marginalization in terms of funds. His arguments and presentations made the political temperature rise as the provinces moved for autonomy through NFC Award and 18th amendment. PML-F also threw its weight on the side of the movement for the restoration of Bahawalpur province.

Nawab of Bahawalpur, Salahuddin Abbasi, initially stuck to his family tradition and was not carried away by the passionate appeals of Durrani to lead the movement for long. He only issued cautiously drafted statements and a promise to come forward if 100,000 youth get registered with the movement. Meanwhile Muhammad Ali Durani brought ahead selling of some land and the railway track at throwaway prices. The statements of some PPP ministers for the creation of Seraiki province and their criticism vis-à-vis the Bahawalpur movement also pushed the Nawab to come into the public.

PPP not only failed on the promise of supporting the restoration of Bahawalpur but also it could not implement some projects which the PPP’s ex-chairperson had promised at the time he launched election campaign into Punjab. While addressing a public gathering at Rahimyarkhan, a few days after she had ended her self-imposed exile and landed in Karachi, she promised slashing interest on agricultural loans, construction of Nishtar Ghat bridge over Indus and provision of canal water at tail end.

The last visit of the Prime Minister in Bahawalpur and announcement for the Seraiki province added fuel to the fire. Muhammad Ali Durrani issued deadline and asked the premier to tell about the boundaries of the proposed province. Finding no response he broke the news that Nawab would announce ‘Bahawalpur Declaration’ on April 14. When the moment came and the people reached at Sadiq Garh Palace at Ahmadpur East in thousands, the Nawab in the presence of the regional leadership, belonging to all shades and colors, said the only way to bring the movement forward was the formation of a party.

Many questions have propped up vis-à-vis the launching of the Bahawalpur Awami Party. There is no question of its success in the upcoming elections both for the reason that the political leadership of the region is united and also that a strong sense of deprivation prevails among the people and they believe that the restoration of the provincial status is the only way out to get rid of extreme poverty and underdevelopment.

It is worth mentioning that there is clear understanding among the political leadership that the movement for the creation of Seraiki province is a ploy of the Peoples Party and that the issue has been just raised to make the Bahawalpur’s cause unachievable. The PML-N too can’t maintain its influence in Bahawalpur further as Nawab has said it very clearly that he would ensure that those who do politics for the cause other than the restoration of province got the political life ended.

The name of the political party suggests that Nawab has no political ambitions beyond Bahawalpur division. But the party influence may reach across three rivers (Sutlej, Panjnad and Sindh) which touch the Bahawalpur division. The districts like Mailsi, Lodhran and Rajanpur are closer to Bahawalpur rather than to Multan. There is history of these regions being attached to the ex-princely state before the occupation of Multan by Sikhs and later by the British.

Last but not the least: Nawab will have to look for political allies at national level. The Bahawalpur Awami Party will part of the Third Force that will simply uphold regional agendas and try their best to get politics take a consensual course. The Bahawalpur Awami Party can assume centre stage in the dialogue for raising alliance of regional parties.

The battle for Punjab

The PPP has recently brought out its Seraiki card which it had been holding close to its chest since its birth. The premier recently said in Jalalpur Pirwala, a town on the right bank of Sutlej, that he is in favor of dividing Punjab on linguistic lines and that the new election manifesto of the party will include Seraiki province — to the very much anxiety of the regional leadership which expects from the party to support the revival of the defunct Bahawalpur province.

By Riaz Missen

Both the PPP and MQM are going to redraw their manifestos. The PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has constituted a 10-member committee and Farooq Sattar, the central leader of the Karachi-based MQM, has announced the constitution of Central Council to achieve their respective ends. Both the political parties are partners in the government at provincial (Sindh) and federal level though the MQM has declined to accept any portfolio.

The PPP is the largest political party of the country. The problem with the MQM is that it is identified as the party of Urdu-speaking migrants confined to the urban areas of Sindh. Its hold on Karachi gives it edge over the mainstream political parties of the country given the mega city’s position as the provincial capital as well as the business hub of the country.

Though the minutiae of the changes in the manifestos of the PPP and the MQM will come out as the committees set up for the purpose will brood, deliberate and discuss the matter, the interests and orientations of the two parties are already in the limelight. While the PPP wants to hold on to its position as the largest political party of the country, the MQM cherishes the dream of its expansion beyond the urban areas of Sindh. The Punjab is the most treasured political destiny its leadership wants to reach out. The party leadership also wants to shed the ethnic image of the country and, therefore, the new manifesto will certainly be drafted keeping it in mind.

The MQM is in a sense one of its kind given the nature of its interests and the agenda it wants to carry on. If one sets aside its ethnic orientations, as its opponents blame, the fact remains that it’s the support-base which constitutes urban areas. The language and thoughts of its leadership clearly indicate that it is not yet thinking about bridging the communication gap between the cities and the countryside. The image of the rural areas which they carry with them is the one dominated by feudal, tribal and spiritual chieftains who, they believe, are answerable for prevalent ignorance and poverty.

The MQM is likely to project itself as a knight in shining armor and deliverer through the new manifesto. Ending feudalism is its long-cherished goal now as has been the case in the past. It is very well-understood by the party leadership that its further expansion will be resisted by the powerful agriculturalist lobby heavily present in the mainstream political parties like the PPP, the PML-N, the ANP and their religious and ethnic associates. Overall, the MQM is pitted against all who matter in the politics of Pakistan.

The PPP, of course, represents the landed interests. It has a genuine interest in the urban areas of Sindh and the Punjab and for that matter it lures the laborers and working classes in the cities. Sindhi and Seraiki nationalists are its natural allies since the times of its inception. In the countryside it wants status quo and has a genuine interest in pushing the landless and the marginalized to the nearby towns and cities as a matter of externalizing the conflict in the rural side.

The PPP is almost out in the big cities of Sindh and only Multan has become it bastion in the Punjab. How to gain control of the urban/industrial region in the two above-mentioned provinces remains its cherished goal and this desire is likely to figure in the revised manifesto of the party. It is the point where the two parties’ interest is going to clash with one other. The MQM is not going to hand over Karachi and Hyderabad to any political party and is up to competing them in the Punjab as well.

The PPP has recently brought out its Seraiki card which it had been holding close to its chest since its birth. The premier recently said in Jalalpur Pirwala, a town on the right bank of Sutlej, that he is in favor of dividing Punjab on linguistic lines and that the new election manifesto of the party will include Seraiki province — to the very much anxiety of the regional leadership which expects from the party to support the revival of the defunct Bahawalpur province. The PPP has found an unexpected ally in the form of the ex-ruling party, PML-Q, which has floated the idea of dividing the Punjab to create a province for its southern parts though it is against doing so on ethnic or linguistic lines.

As for the MQM, it is all in favor of new provinces. It is one step ahead of the PPP in the sense that it pleads the re-demarcation of the boundaries of the existing provinces. The PPP prefers status-quo in this regard and it is only lately that it has supported dividing the Punjab. Though the premier in his aforementioned address in Bahawalpur had also announced support for the ‘small provinces’, it is not yet clear whether he meant by it strengthening the position of the existing smaller provinces or the creation of new ones like Hazara.

The MQM aspires for carving out a province out of Sindh and its desire found some expression in the form of the district government system which it welcomed and gained a virtual hold over Karachi, but abolition of this system by the PPP in Sindh and elsewhere has frustrated it. It is quite natural that this party wants a space outside of Sindh to make its voice effective in the decision-making process of the country. Given its bitter experience in the past, the MQM will avoid reviving any demand for creation of a province essentially comprising Karachi till it finds its support-base out of Sindh. So the Punjab has become vital for it after the abolition of the local government system and indefinite postponing of the polls.

The PPP seems ultimately convinced it can’t take over Takht-e-Lahore given the presence of PML-N and the wide support of the media and establishment available to it. All of its reconciliation policy has ended up its alliance with the PML-N in the Punjab. The South Punjab, a mainstay of the party, feels now frustrated and is all up to getting rid of Takht-e-Lahore. The move to divide the Punjab, however, may backfire.

The PML-N may overcome its foot-dragging and re-condition its motivation to this end as a measure to avoid commotion and mayhem due to concentration of desperate interest in Punjab and to revive its claim as a national-level party, it may negotiate a constitutional amendment with the government and its ethnic allies for some formula to create new provinces. Language can be one factor but not the sole criteria for dividing a province. The 7th NFC Award can serve as the best guide. If it decides so, the PML-N may be next party to announce its next manifesto right now.

Saving ecology, agriculture in Bahawalpur

It is time for the politicians (I am specially talking about of the souls belonging to Central Punjab and upper Sindh) to get out of the useless politics they are now involved in. If you don’t want new dams and can’t afford to have smaller units ( so that they can look after their own developmental needs) play your role in making your cities and waterways clean and let the scientists undertake their noble task they have taken up to themselves to make available the water required for the wheat crop .

By Riaz Missen

 The attempts of the South Punjab’s politicians to make the link canals flowing down from Chashma and Taunsa headworks perennial (as a step to compensate the southern part of the country for its losing of three eastern rivers) has caused uproar in Sindh. Pervez Musharraf era did bring a relief in terms of the opening of these canals but it is not possible as long as the PPP remains in power and PML-N depending for its support in Punjab. Even if these canals remain open for, at least three months of the winter, the damage done to the water table on the both sides of the Sutlej River (it has become brackish due to constant pumping from the farmers to water the wheat crop) is irreparable.

 The human settlement on the left bank of the Sutlej River witnessed an upsurge 300 years back when some tribes fled the anarchy of Sindh, brought by raiding Afghans, and made the region their abode. The Abbasids who had led them there were wonderful agriculturalists. They allotted lands to their followers, sunk wells and dug canals to ensure their survival. The formation of the state was yet another miracle they brought in the no-man land where Sutlej meandered in the times of plenty. A long spell of peace and stability helped the growth of culture and civilisation. But all changed after 1947: the state was first merged into Pakistan and then into Punjab.

 The Sutlej River gradually dried up due to its selling by the Ayub regime to India through the fateful Indus Basin Treaty (1960). The huge amount the defunct princely state had paid to construct water reservoirs on the Sutlej River (Head Sulemanki, Head Islam and Head Panjnad) was almost rendered wasted when India started exercising its complete control on the perennial river.

 The cotton boom of 1980s made mud houses vanished and the cemented houses were lit up with electricity. A road was constructed during the Musharraf era. The cotton boom is over as the crop has been constantly hit by deadly virus for last eight years. But this did not discourage the farmers to sow cotton for many years: they needed stems to burn them as a fuel. During a whole decade, the farmers had not planted trees on the heads of their fields wrongly assuming that they reduced the per acre yield. Now they have no cotton but don’t have trees either.

 At the very time the per acre yield of cotton had started dropping the government had offered one-window facility to farmers to get loans from Zari Taraqqiati Bank (ZTBL) instead of probing into the reasons as to why the farmers were suffering the loss. Actually, the mindless use of pesticides and chemical fertiliser had disturbed the ecological system and it had become unfit for the proper growth of this crop.

 As I have mentioned earlier the farmers not only did not planted new trees but also sold the existing ones to the kiln owners.  The mechanisation of the agricultural sector sent the bullocks to the slaughterhouses; the short-term prosperity made them feel no urge of raring goats and sheep. The animal dung was now not available to replenish the soil fertility. They used chemical fertiliser but it eroded the fertility of the soil. The pesticides not only killed the crop friendly insects and birds but also proved hazardous for human health.

 

The authorities responsible for taking care of the environment remained silent spectators as the farmers treaded the suicidal path. I don’t know exactly whether the cotton produce did bring foreign exchange for the country. Even it did so but who will pay the cost the farmers have suffered in terms of both health and ecological system (1.8 percent of GDP is spent on the treatment of water-born diseases) ? About the loans given to the farmers, the fact of the matter is that these loans were given at the mark up higher than the market. The Mobile Credit Officers (MCOs) and Patwaris made billions for facilitating the farmers to get the easy money. When the reversal course started and crop failures became a reality, farmers’ lands were put on sale. No political party stood by farmers during the 1990s when all this happened.

 Now what is the fate of the small farmers? Their children now travel to the far flung areas in search of jobs because the few ginning factories and cotton mills can’t cater to the employment needs of the growing population. The region is not supplied even with its due share of canal water. When the cotton crop has failed farmers’ dependency on wheat crop has increased. But the problem is that this crop needs water in days when there is no water at all. So the water has to be pumped out. Now think about the mounting energy rates. The profitability is on decline with the every passing year. No industry, no agriculture.

 The mindless pumping of the ground water is turning it brackish besides making it slip downward (more diesel/ electricity consumption). A day is not away when the people will know the cost of sowing wheat, too. They will have to buy it up to quench their thrust. Will they migrate in search of water? I don’t know exactly if people are thinking about such option (politicians, are you ready to lead the people on the trail of tears!). The ex-Chief Minister of Punjab evolved the habit of sacrificing the water of Bahawalpur to earn good will of Sindhis. The situation changed only when a delegation of Cholistanis travelled to Lahore and told him that the Sindhis used the very water to have a good crop which they (Cholistanis) needed to quench the thirst of their children and livestock!

 Irony is that Punjab has double the cultivable area than Sindh but the lower riparian gets canal water nearly equal to the former. The will of the Punjab to get its due share is paralysed in the face of the fact that the Central Punjab is catering to all its needs by the canal water. The northern regions can’t have a canal system but only on a smaller scale. In the southern belt (except Bahawalpur), the owners of the large tracts also manage water for their crops anyhow. Only the small farmer is deprived of this facility.

 Against all these odds, a rare breed of agricultural scientists has brought ahead a solution that should galvanise the political parties to action: It is about the cost-effective treatment of wastewater through bio-remediation techniques, to cater to the agricultural needs of the country. As per estimates, the total size of the wastewater (used by household and industry) is 32 MAF which, if managed properly, can cater to the needs of the entire wheat crop. The project is ready with the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) for its implementation throughout Pakistan by its National Institute of the Bio-remediation (NiB) and it can turn up a ray of hope for the small farmers of the dry regions of Pakistan, particularly the South Punjab, which is predominantly an agricultural belt but lacks the political vigour to get what is due to it. Sindh and Central Punjab cater to their 95% needs through canal water.

It is time for the politicians (I am specially talking about of the souls belonging to Central Punjab and upper Sindh) to get out of the useless politics they are now involved in. If you don’t want new dams and can’t afford to have smaller units ( so that they can look after their own developmental needs) play your role in making your cities and waterways clean and let the scientists undertake their noble task they have taken up to themselves to make available the water required for the wheat crop .

Status-quo is, of course,  not acceptable because it is darkening the future of the country and its people. Times have changed and it is time for politicians and the political parties to change as well. Try to understand that the future of the country and politics lies in understanding the nature and adjusting our ways according to its dictates — remember flash floods of 2008?

-The Post 

Beware of dictators!

Bahawalpur has known disliking for dictators: Ayub Khan had sold its lifeline, Sutlej River to India, through Indus Basin Treaty of 1960; General Yahya Khan did not mention Bahawalpur province when he restored the federal units that had been clubbed into One Unit in 1955; Zia had allotted vast tracts in Cholistan to his favorites. Bahawalpur has attached high hopes with democracy: it should not only get firm roots but also be able to undo the doings of the dictators.

By Riaz Missen

Ayub Khan visited Bahawalpur on his election campaign. When he reached Chowk Fawara to make an address, city plunged into darkness. What he said was this: “Brothers and sisters, I have come to power through the stick I am holding in my hand not through ballot box. I have visited your city to tell you that it does not matter whether you cast your vote for me or my opponent (Fatima Jinnah)”.

Field Marshall Ayub Khan did win elections and became president of Pakistan. The landed aristocracy supported him. He allotted lands to members of Pukhtoon and Tareen tribe in Punjab and Sindh in an effort to promote national solidarity. He was the most powerful president of the country and, by this account, the most corrupt ruler Pakistan have had so far. Zia-ul-Haq went a step ahead — he hanged the first elected prime minister and never bothered to hold elections. Both are now the story of the past but the legacy they have left behind is still intact.

Anti-democracy forces have prevailed on Pakistan for most part of its history. Two decades passed without holding parliamentary elections. The civil-military bureaucracy developed a system that made the commoners to pay but receive nothing in return. “Why to count those who survive on the lowest ladder of social life?” the intelligentsia from the other side of the divide, often raises the question.  In a country where feudal, spiritual and tribal leaders rule the roost, democracy only helps them to assert their privileged position in the society. Each and every election has brought these souls to the legislative assemblies. While they have the power to decide, the only thing they do is to reserve every luxury for themselves and their clans.

The fact of the matter is that the division between dictatorial and democratic forces has been clear and visible since the times of country’s birth. The situation would have been different if anti-democratic forces would not have been supported from without. Had Ayub Khan not imposed martial law, the NAP would have swept elections. Had democracy stayed, it is problematic whether Pakistan would have joined the Western Bloc. Had Zia-ul-Haq not intervened in politics, the country would not have been used as a base camp to launch jihad into Afghanistan. Actually, Pakistan would not have been in a precarious situation as it is today, had military stayed away from politics.

It is actually welcoming that Hillary Clinton, during her much celebrated visit to Pakistan recently, given a pledge that the US would never support dictators and would rather, help the civilian regime to do away threats to democracy. Additionally, the political parties have made it clear that they would never be part of any exercise to derail the political system in vogue. Civil society, too, is not fragile today as it once used to be. Media is free and independent and is religiously guarding its freedom. The Left, which had gone to hibernation since Zia period, is coming to life again.

Still, democracy is not on the sound footings. Addressing the recently held meeting of party’s Central Executive Committee, Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman, said the PPP had always faced crisis whenever it was voted to power. He said the establishment’s hidden hands had become active again due to which rumors and propaganda regarding differences within various constitutional and state components were being deliberately spread under a well-organized plan.

Needless to say, political parties still have to organize themselves on the grassroots level and hold free and fair elections to elect their leadership; power has to be devolved not only to the provinces but also to the divisions and districts; and, above all, the revenue and justice systems have to be made transparent and fair to wear a pro-people look.

Though there seems no urge, from any mainstream political party, to revive land reforms scheme, the peasantry’s problem has to be resolved — its size has increased but not its possessions. The new lands have only been allotted to the retired civil-military bureaucrats. Unjust distribution of canal water and increase in the price of input has made them mortgage their lands with the ZTBL — there lands should not be auctioned, any more.

The most dangerous fall out of the consistent martial laws in Pakistan has been the absence of any policy for sustainable economic growth. Livestock and fisheries have been paid least attention so far. Deforestation has assumed alarming trend, which needs not only to be stopped but also reversed. Desertification of deserts like Cholistan is also a problem that needs to be tackled effectively by stopping further encroachments on them by farming communities.

Needless to say, many doings of the dictators need to be undone, once for all. The constitutional reforms should provide enough proof of that. The identity of the state needs to be adjusted with the requirements of the global age. When democracy has returned the ‘ideological burdens’ should be laid off. While doing so, the democratic forces should have clear understanding that if they want to keep military in barracks, the mullas also need to be confined to their traditional tasks.

According to Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, the eminent political scientist, “Until the quality of democratic governance improves, the political and social conditions of the feudal age would continue to determine class and caste relations in our society. But once democracy and rule of law become consistent functional political patterns, a new political culture of equal rights would emerge that would provide for political space and institutional remedies to lower caste groups against discrimination and exploitation.”

Postscript

Bahawalpur has known disliking for dictators: Ayub Khan had sold its lifeline, Sutlej River, through Indus Basin Treaty  of 1960 to India; General Yahya Khan did not mention Bahawalpur province when he restored the federal units that had been clubbed into One Unit in 1955; Zia had allotted vast tracts in Cholistan to his favorites. Bahawalpur has attached high hopes with democracy: it should not only get firm roots but also be able to undo the doings of the dictators.

-Weekly Pulse

Cash-starving Pakistan may bank on IMF

There are talks about the cutting the size of the army which numbers more than half-million. This measure can help direct lot of funds to the social sector development. But before doing this, there is need of rethinking the security policy of the country. And it will not be possible without taking away from the state the responsibility to defend the ‘ideological’ frontiers — it is really a costly job!

By Riaz Missen

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has shown eagerness to save Pakistan from economic collapse at the time its friends and allies refused to lend a helping hand. Even China, which President Zardari toured with lot of fanfare, did not respond as quickly as the guest was expecting.

 IMF was the lost priority of the PM’s advisor on finance and the de facto finance minister, Mr Shaukat Tareen, as he was sure that Pakistan’s role in war on terror and its democratic credentials would urge the world to save Pakistan from a looming default.

IMF is not going to help Pakistan for the first time. It has done so on several occasions in the past as well. But this international financial institution (IFI) has always been loathed. IMF has never been the first choice of civilian regimes.

It is not what the IMF charges on its loans the regimes of the countries like Pakistan dread but these are the conditions which it insists should be fulfilled like curtailing public expenditure, withdrawing subsidies, expanding the tax base and adopting austerity measures.

IMF started lending its helping hand to the economically depressed countries in the 1970s when many found it impossible to pay their foreign debts due to global economic slowdown caused by the oil crisis. The IMF lent credit to the countries on the verge of default to stabilize their economies as well as enable them to pay off their foreign loans.

The interest rate is as minimal as 2.5% and sometimes as meager as 0.5% per annum. However, IMF asks applicants to restructure their economies to bring efficiency and let more space for the private entrepreneurs by resorting to the measures like privatization of the state-run businesses.

The previous government did accept the IMF loan and undertook some measures like downsizing, deregulation and privatization. However, these measures were carried half-the-way. The semi-democratic regime went ahead only to the benefit of the big businesses. The small investors were losers at stock exchanges, profiteers and hoarders took away essential commodities out of the reach of the commoners and state run industrial units were sold at throwaway prices.

Like the civilian governments in the past, the present one is also reluctant to accept the IMF loan facility for the obvious reasons. It can’t levy taxes on the well offs and big businesses. Though Mr. Tareen has vowed to bring agriculture, stock exchange business and real estate into tax net but he has to go extra long miles to make any difference in this regard.

When the lower and middle income groups can’t be provided relief by lessening the tax burden on them, the government simply can withdraw subsidies only on the risk of losing its face. PML-N is just waiting for the moment to exploit people’s frustration over the rising energy prices and increasing unemployment due to power shut downs.

Going by its vulnerabilities, Pakistan simply can’t escape the looming crisis without the help of the IMF which has offered its liquidity fund to keep the economy afloat. The deal with this IFI will open the door for assistance from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank as well.

The PPP-led regime missed the chance to give positive signal to the IMF as well as the countrymen on the occasion of presenting he budget for this fiscal year. It could have expanded the tax net and announced some relief for the poor and the middle income groups. Unfortunately it failed where it should have succeeded: food, edible oil, gas and petroleum products remained as highly taxed as ever.

The dilemma with the government, hence, is clear. It can’t withdraw subsidies further until and unless it brings down GST and import duty on the essentials particularly kitchen items, petrol and diesel which affects the life of the people the most.

Progressive taxation is the answer while ensuring that the burden is not shifted to the lower income groups through corruption.

The government needs to open up other avenues to end its dependency on traditional sources of revenue. It needs to seriously think of cutting down the non-development expenditure. If it has to withdraw subsidies it should seriously work on the ways to increase spending on health, education and other civic amenities. Cheap justice and rule of law can bring many dividends for both the people and economy — the both.

Foreign tours of the government dignitaries and the bureaucrats, perks and privileges of the heads of the semi-autonomous institutions and the top-down corruption of the officials ultimately burdens the weaker sections of the society.

Instead of investing further on constructing roads and highways, the government needs to improve the railway system and make it more efficient. It will promote business and help cut down the import bill on oil.

There are talks about the cutting the size of the army which numbers more than half-million. This measure can help direct lot of funds to the social sector development. But before doing this, there is need of rethinking the security policy of the country. And it will not be possible without taking away from the state the responsibility to defend the ‘ideological’ frontiers — it is really a costly job!

Necessary amendments in the constitution will certainly redefine the objectives of the state and re-imagine its role and responsibilities as a pluralist entity striving to find a due place in the comity of nations.

Getting rid of the ‘ideological’ burdens will give a strong message to the countries in the neighborhood and beyond. The public expenditure will significantly come down as many institutions will have to be closed. Pakistan will become a heaven for tourists as the country will owe its history far beyond the fall of Sindh at the hands of the Arab armies. Many spiritual sites have attraction for the Hindus and Buddhists a prosperous community of Asia.

Regional trade will not only bring down the cost of doing business, raise the purchasing power of the people and improve the standards of life but it means lot of revenues for the government as well. Further, it will invoke the interest of the neighbors in the peaceful and stable existence of the country.

Weekly Pulse

Not a zero-sum game, at all

During my recent visit to this mega-city, I collected some impressions — the first and foremost is that Lahore has expanded too much. It is such a large city that one can’t be sure where it begins and where it ends. It has so many facilities but its problems are also gigantic.

By Riaz Missen

Frankly speaking I have not seen most of Lahore. Many historical places that I had read about in school days still remain a mystery for me. Reason is that Tahir Baig is too much busy with his ‘Red Woods’. Last summer he confined my movements to the Karim Block in Gulshan-e-Iqbal where he was painting his shop red. This time he was thinking about establishing franchises in other cities of Punjab, including Bahawalpur.

I have not visited Lahore frequently though it is the capital of the province I live in. My fifteen years in Islamabad did not make me a frequent visitor of this city, for trains and buses plying between Bahawalpur and the federal capital have found short cuts to escape it.

That the city is hundred of miles away from Bahawalpur is not an issue now when district government being are in place, Lahore has devolved some powers to Bahawalpur, but there is lot the people of this far off region have to seek in Lahore. I mean by this jobs, promotions and justice.

During my recent visit to this mega-city, I collected some impressions — the first and foremost is that Lahore has expanded too much. It is such a large city that one can’t be sure where it begins and where it ends. It has so many facilities but its problems are also gigantic.

 The suburb of Lahore is as underdeveloped as many areas of Punjab. A little ran could make life miserable. It is what I had seen when I was returning to Bahawalpur. It was daytime and I could see a glimpse of the towns of my own region in the suburb of Lahore. The industrial units were surrounded by filth. Poverty was flourishing under the shadows of skyscrapers.

To my understanding city ended where a link canal is flowing southward. I saw its waters keenly for I had once seen a report in Multan based daily that industrial waste of Lahore was being flown to the Sutlej River. I don’t know whether it is the same link canal that empties itself in the Sutlej but I am sure that its water was polluted.

 While passing through Lahore’s suburb I remembered the claims of the ex-chief minister that his government had allocated record funds for the uplift of Southern Punjab. The projected figure is Rs. 130 billion. I have not seen rest parts of the region but what I know is that my own village has got its streets brick-lined and a network of mettle roads is in place.

 Too, the Bahawalpuris have found health infrastructure operative now after a neglect of decades. The Bahawal Victoria Hospital (BVH) is serving patients free of cost (almost). I myself had the opportunity to visit a nearby Basic Health Unit and found both the staff as well as the patients satisfied with the newfound love of the government with public health system.

Education was another passion of the Punjab government for last five years. It deserves the credit of making it free up to the High School level. That it was gender sensitive adds more to its achievements. Many parents have put their girls in schools due to the reason that not only it does disturb their budgets.

 The happiest moments this time in Lahore were those in which I had opportunity to chat with Tahir’s school going daughters. They want to become teachers — nay, educationists! I don’t know what their third sister, Fatima, really thinks about her career. But I know Tahir since last ten years. He will encourage them to make their way through life on their own choice.

The next day when he was on the road to drop me on the bus terminal, he was ready to give credit to the last government for road expansions and a better-managed traffic system but still he thought it necessary that the ‘Lion’ should come out of its den. Too much ‘cycling’ has badly affected the cultural side of his city.

Lahore has developed specific civic norms, which it can’t now compromise. When Tahir said this I clearly understood that Lahore is looking not around but on itself. “Do you think the next elections will be fair?” I asked. He was quick to remind me of the statement of Ghulam Mustafa Khar: If Moonis Elhai wins his seat from Lahore the elections are rigged, for sure.

The journey to Lahore was a happy exercise. It is connected with all major cities of Punjab with motorways. The buses running at more than 100 km/ hour take now fewer hours to reach Lahore from any part of the province. From Bahawalpur the promised hours are six but it takes more than seven. The situation is far better when the figure used to be 10.

“Lahore has the potential to even grow more if it just takes care of itself.  It should not expand further and contain itself to certain limits. It should also think about getting smart and slim, if possible,” I thought loudly when the bus was crossing over the Sutlej River. By that time night had fallen. There was some water in the river but I can’t tell exactly whether it was polluted or clean.

The Post

Pakistan may search its identity in Cholistan

Pakistan’s identity not complete without reference to the civilisation that once developed and thrived on the banks of Hakra River

By Riaz Missen
January 21, 2008

The Saraiki department at the Islamia University of Bahawalpur is planning to launch M. Phil program that will definitely end up in Ph. D. A prominent poet-scholar Dr. Nasrullah Khan Nasir heads it. His journey to this prestigious post started in the late 1970’s when he became part of the movement against the merger of Bahawalpur State into Punjab.

The movement for Bahawalpur province was suppressed. The memory of military action against the protestors is still alive. A local daily carried out a special number. Akbar Malik has been awarded doctoral degree by History department on the subject. The merger divided the new and old settlers into two groups — the settlers supported the move while locals opposed it. Dr. Mussawar Bokhari believes that Saraiki nationalism draws strength from the anti-Punjab movement in Bahawalpur.

For the intelligentsia of Bahawalpur, if one cause was lost another had begun. Multanis, who were the first to console these dejected soules over the loss of their state, ‘advised’ them to join a movement to create a province out of Punjab while Saraiki, not the Sutlej should set the boundaries. They were not in favor of a militant struggle, as some ‘freedom fighters’ of Bahawalpur once planned. Rather, they would have to disperse and become part of the new system to make their voice stronger.

About four decades down the road, Bahawalpuri intelligentsia is well entrenched in the system. The people, who had dared Punjab’s wrath to retain their identity, are serving many state institutions in respectable positions. They don’t hide their intentions. They insist that Saraiki is the biggest language of Pakistan and preservation of the culture and identity of the people associated with this language is responsibility of the state.

Some believe that the restoration of Bahawalpur province is a dead idea and it is not in the capacity of the people of this region to carve out a province out of Punjab. Multanis have definitely to take the lead for the creation of new province keeping in mind that Saraiki identity is not complete without taking into consideration the history of  Bahawalpur  and the importance of the Hakra-Valley Civilisation that once flourished in the area now called Cholistan.

“Ganveri Wala (southwest of Derawar Fort) falls in the center of the two cities, Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, associated with the Indus Valley civilization,” says Dr. Nasrullah Khan Nasir adding that it is the area where Hindu sacred books were written. Referring to the findings of the prominent archaeologist, Dr. Rafiq Mughul, Dr. Nasir insists that the center of the civilization associated with Indus Valley rested on the banks of Hakra.

Dr. Nasrullah is truly an academic figure now. His main field is research and he is doing the right job by occupying right chair. When he does not agree with his counterparts in Central Punjab and Sindh on the matter of linguistic and cultural identity, he seems to be insisting that Bahawalpur region contains the secret of Pakistan’s past. No consciously built identity, not only of Saraiki but also of the state of Pakistan, will be complete and credible without a reference to the Hakra civilization.

The leading figure of the movement for the restoration of Bahawalpur province has practically abandoned the idea to get rid of Lahore’s domination. Seth Ubaid-ur-Rahaman who had played a leading role in this movement is only able to live with his memories. So is the case with Malik Qamar, the high court lawyer. When the comrades of the movement for the restoration of Bahawalpur province have turned to bigger ideas, the people from lower-middle class fill the ranks of the organization. Neither the statements of the leadership of the organization are given importance by press nor any practical plan to achieve its ends has come to the open. Electoral politics is still a remote possibility for it.

Though the movement for the restoration of Bahawalpur is weak, the question is still alive. The Saraiki nationalists have strong reason to reject the idea. The population balance among the Saraiki and Punjabi settlers is almost  equal. The consistent marshall laws have strengthened the hands of the settlers in terms of jobs and land and limited water resources. So, having a province will definitely result into the domination of the Punjabi settlers.

“It is out of question now. We stand for a bigger province on the basis of our claim of being Saraiki, like other ‘nations’ i.e. Punjabis, Sindhi, Balochs and Pukhtoons,” Ismail Dahir, member of Saraiki National Party (SNP) and practicing lawyer of Rahim Yar Khan says. To him a province comprising at least three divisions of Punjab i.e. Multan, DG Khan and Bahawalpur and DI Khan of NWFP, can help secure Saraiki identity and culture for the generations to come.

Shahzad Irfan’s father had been among the founders of Pakistan Saraiki Party (PSP) under the leadership of Barrister Taj Muhammad Langah, who had developed differences with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto vis-à-vis questions related with Saraiki identity. He is not so active on political front. Archeology is his passion now. Shahzad insists on a distinct if not different identity of Bahawalpur. “ Regionalism not nationalism will provide the way out,” he says.

Somewhere in his mind rests the doubt whether Bahawalpur can reach its destination — ending rule of Punjab — with the help of Multan. Reverting to the position of 1970, the time when One Unit was abolished is more practical idea rather than waging a struggle for the Saraiki province. “Bahawalpur’s question is as bigger as the question of Kashmir’s accession to either of the state, India and Pakistan,” he insists.

“Supreme Court of Pakistan can settle this question,” Shahzad Irfan says insisting that the merging of Bahawalpur into Punjab is illegal as per the provision of the One Unit Plan. He does not fail to identify the hand of the feudals of Punjab and Sindh in the degeneration of a princely state into just a division of Punjab province.

“We lost Sutlej, our lifeline, due to the Indus Basin Treaty but no political party is ready to take up our case as the region gets its water table down to the alarming levels,” he worries. “Nobody bothers when Punjab sacrifices Bahawalpur’s share of canal water to the benefit of the Sindhi farmers in the name of provincial harmony,” he adds.

Once Peoples Party raised hopes among Saraiki nationalists by addressing their linguistic concern. The Islamia University of Bahawalpur got a Saraiki department during 1990s as a result. Bahaudin Zikria University has also got a research center. Saraiki is being taught at college level. But the whole process has consumed a decade and a PTV station in Multan still remains a dream.

The twists and turns of history have proved that no political party in Pakistan can come up to the aspiration of the Saraiki people given the fascination of the elite with big provinces. Many initiatives of the Centre vis-à-vis economic development and national cohesion are in limbo due to entrenched positions the four dominant ethnic groups have taken vis-à-vis each other. And Bahawalpur’s case is even more complex. It can’t wait now. Identity is not a problem — thanks to Dr. Rafiq Mughul. The drying up of Sutlej River is the most pressing problem and growing rate of unemployment and failing agriculture the others.
It is true that there exists tension between the settlers, mainly having links with Central Punjab, and the agricultural belt running alongside the Sutlej River. The competition on jobs and land resources has entered into the political arena as well. The Jats and Arains look towards Lahore while the rest to everywhere. The traditional elite that has switched their loyalties between Karachi and Lahore is under immense pressure from the youth of the old communities to find a way out.

The situation is about to take an ugly turn as the traditional elite have become sensitive to security of their domain that has become under threat now. The conflict between Chaudharys of Gujrat and Makhdoom of Rahmiyar Khan is an example whereby the later became irritated at the former’s getting allotted land in Cholistan and seeing goodbye to their murids, who were tilling the land since centuries. The competition on Rescue 1122 posts in Bahawalpur is the recent development that has caused resentment among locals due to heavy-handed tactics of Tahir Bashir Cheema.

The way out is probably there. The new and old settlers will have to join hands. The land grabbing in the area will have to be stopped to save water for the old population. Livestock and tourism will yield more than bringing the desert under cultivation. The conservation of the Hakra belt is as essential as the optimal utilization of the water resources.

There needs to be a consensus on the issue of Sutlej River, which has been unjustifiably taken over by India through Indus Basin Treaty. It is essential to preserve the ecosystem on which the future of the region heavily depends. The water table is slipping down very fast. If Sutlej does not resume its strength, exodus of population from the agri belt will be the only result. Such a development has already taken place due to drying up of once a mighty river, Hakra.

About the domination of Lahore over Bahawalpur, it is true that Ranjit Singh had once aspired for it. The region was saved only due to the intervention of the English. What was not possible at that time became real after the creation of Pakistan. It is also true that the settlers favored the merger of the princely state into Punjab to the very much disappointment of the old population. The reckless allotment of lands has taken the share of water available to it besides reducing grazing space for the livestock of the indigenous tribes.

As far as the differences between new and old settlers are concerned, the stalemate persists since the merger of Bahawalpur State into Punjab. Where the militant groups of Central Punjab have found clients among new population, nationalism is getting stronger among the old. The worrisome aspect of the whole situation is that there is still no dialogue between the two groups.

The question whether the act of merger was legal is still there and it needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Punjab is the largest province of Pakistan. Dropping little bit weight will make it look smarter. Its image will certainly improve among the smaller provinces of the country

The growth of Saraiki nationalism has naturally raised concerns among settlers. They have responded with strengthening links with religious organizations. Militancy is on the rise in this part of the population. Restoring Bahawalpur province will certainly bring down nationalistic sentiments as well religious militancy in the area. The democratic process will soon bring forth Bahawalpur’s pluralist character, as was the case before the partition.

Musharraf regime presents farewell budget

High subsidies, development funds lose worth when economy stands on shaky grounds

By Riaz Missen

 Despite the wide spread impression that it is an election year budget due to record allocation for public sector development programs but given the prospects of the economic managers who had authored the fate of the economy packing home, it can be safely called a farewell budget. Subsidies for the poor sections of the society are meaningless when the economy stands on shaky grounds. High inflation, energy crisis, mismanaged water resources and political uncertainties are set to deny their gains in last eight years.

The government has tried to strike a balance between the expectations of the different sections of the society as well as the available resources. In some areas it has set unrealistic goals. In others, it seems having a conservative approach while allocating funds or granting subsidies.

A cursory look at the fund allocation chart will reveal that the budget is as business friendly as in the past. A phenomenal growth in agri sector has been used an excuse to allocate record funds for it.

 The priority seems to address the demands of the vocal sections of the society like feudals, traders, financial wizards, and the government employees. The defence allocations have also been increased while keeping in mind the inflationary trends and experience of the last year.

 The ‘silent majority’ can best live with the tall promises that have been made in the budget. A deliberate attempt has been made to prove it to be favouring the poor sections of the society, as well. The subsidies in terms of food items are supposed to alleviate the sufferings of the teeming millions in the times of high inflation.

There are some areas where the government has tried to make promises fully knowing that they can’t be fulfilled. Also, there are some avenues of income it has left untouched. There could be some revolutionary measures that it should have taken to alleviate the sufferings of the lower and middle income groups but it has behaved as usual.

Impressive figures

 The budget 2007-8 with a total outlay of Rs. 1874 billion was presented in the National Assembly on Saturday. The fiscal deficit in the budget will be Rs. 205 billion. The current expenditures in the budget have been set at Rs. 1353 billion i.e. 66% of the total budget, which is 2.2% more than the current fiscal year budget. Rs. 520 billion has been allocated for the annual development program, 37.7 % more than the current year.

 Rs. 1394 billion fiscal resources would be available to the government for the next financial year with Rs. 205 billion deficit. In current year 1100 billion rupees were available to the government. The net taxation revenue target in the budget has been set at Rs. 902 billion, which is 28% more than the current fiscal year.

The centre will transfer Rs. 466 billion revenues to the provinces including Rs. 403 billion from the divisible pool and Rs. 62.8 billion through direct grants. Rs. 113 billion has been allocated in the budget for subsidies, while Rs. 119 billion has been earmarked for interest and repayment of foreign loans while Rs. 318 billion for repayment of the domestic loans.

Defense budget has witnessed increase by 10 percent going by the inflationary trends and the experience of the past years.

Agriculture sector seems to be the real beneficiary in terms of budgetary allocations as compared to industry given the heavy presence of the fuedals in the corridors of power. Rests of the sectors of economy have got their privileges intact and where it seems possible the concessions have been granted in terms of relaxation on importing machinery.

Raise in subsidy on fertilizer, concession on tube well charging rates by 25%, allocating funds for the supply of quality seeds and subsidies on diesel have been the major incentives announced for the agri sector.

 Constructing infrastructure across the country has been termed the major focus of the PSDP. The government has sought completion of ongoing projects within time. The pace of work on these projects was slowed down due to high inflationary trends in the economy.

 Record subsidies have been announced presumably to alleviate the sufferings of these sections of the society. The essential commodities will be made available at subsidised rates (25 %) to the people by expanding the network of utility stores to the Union Council level in four months.

The government employees will get 15% raise in their salaries, the retired ones will get 20% raise in their pensions while the unskilled worker’s minimum salary has been increased from Rs. 4000 to Rs. 4600.

The government intends to construct 250,000 low-cost housing units to provide cheap accommodation facility to the low-income group a housing scheme in collaboration with the provincial and district governments for which the House Building Finance Corporation would provide soft loans. An estimated number of 250,000 units would be constructed in the next five years.

 Another scheme for low paid government employees would be launched under which 37,000 housing units would be given to the employees on ownership basis. The government employees would have the facility to get loans for the construction work.

 

Meanwhile, the government has allocated a sum of Rs1.206 billion for the housing ministry against Rs1.194 billion fund provided to the ministry under the Public Sector Development Programme for the last fiscal year.

Education sector has been allocated 4% of the total budget while health sector has got Rs. 5.24 billion besides Rs. 16 billion for the provision of clean water.

The government has also allocated Rs. 26 billion for the construction of water reservoirs while one billion rupees have been allocated for Thal and Kachhi canal.

Rhetoric vs. reality

The government has made claims vis-à-vis its achievements in terms of improving the micro-economic indicators during last eight years like GDP growth, per capita income, foreign exchange reserves and the revenues. It has also owes the credit of bringing the expenditure on public development programs to the record level besides achieving the 4% target of expenditure on the education sector.

The foreign direct investment has also touched new limits due to the liberalisation policies of the government by which opened all the sectors of economy to the investors. With no limit to earn profit and low interest rates in early years did their wonders in country with 160 million people out of 30 million are supposed to belonging to the middle class.

The benefit of low interest rates went to the banking sector who forwarded credit to the middle class for the purchase of consumer goods. Car leasing companies, motorcycle manufactures did see phenomenal rise in demand. The sale of electronic goods like refrigerator, washing machine, TV etc. also touched new limits. Mobile phone companies also benefited from the credit forwarded by the banking sector to the middle income groups of the society.

Only three sectors out of 32 have been showing worth during last eight years. They include banking, oil & Gas and telecom sectors. The rest have refused to rise up despite heavy restructuring drive. The economic cycle has been run on the money sent back by oversees Pakistanis and the one billion dollar aid package of the Bush Administration.

 Reforms that were meant to bring transparency in the working of the public institutions are still under way. A lot of funds for the uplift of the country could not be spent during last fiscal. The departments missing their targets are being asked to spend the pending amount within next two or three months.

 “The budget doesn’t deal in an effective way with infrastructural bottlenecks (acute shortages of water and power), speculative activity that is diverting precious resources to non-productive areas (real estate and stocks), provision of social security net and lifting and boosting productivity by investing appropriately in human capital,” concludes a commentator.

 Poor on razor’s edge despite heavy subsidies

 When the government had started claiming to achieve micro-economic stability, the then Governor State Bank, Dr. Ishrat Hussain, had publicly admitted that the axe of structure reforms had fallen on the poor and middle income groups.

The poor sections of the society were duly promised to be compensated in the next phase of reforms, for the government had brought down interest rates and showed door to many unskilled workers during its restructuring drive.

The second generation reforms have yet to get a momentum while the team of economic managers is set to leave back to where it had come from. What it has given is a casino-culture economy whereby the mafias of the financial sectors have taken the savings of the poor through stock exchanges and real state business.

 The well-off sections have never been brought in the tax net for the guiding philosophy of the economic managers was that the more they will save, the more they will invest in the export-oriented business.

Tax-to-GDP ratio stood at 13.5 percent in 1999 that is down now around 9%. During the last eight years inequalities have grown while the ratio of indirect taxes has been increased burdening further the middle and lower income groups.

 Amidst political chaos lurking on country’s horizon, energy crisis looming large, inflation rising high, trade deficit increasing every day, cost of business on the rise, the agriculture left on the mercy of the heavens and the middle and lower income groups burdened with heavy taxes, the subsidies will only heat up the economy rather than benefiting the poor.

Economic managers ditch the country

 While instituting reforms, the real task would have been reducing the administrative expenditure as well as taking measures to keep prices of essential goods for the consumers. But as the reformers got the momentum monopolies emerged and the government did not cap the profiteering ratio lest the investors are discouraged.

Too, the regional trade was not promoted to lessen the cost of business and making available cheap and quality goods to the people. Rather, this avenue remained hostage to the political expediency to the bad luck of the economy.

The best hope of General Musharraf after his taking over the government in 1999 could have been the restructuring of the economy to bring efficiency in different sectors. Given the onset of the WTO regime that obliged Pakistan to allow free flow of goods from the other members of the regime, the real challenge was to increase the productivity so that the trade deficit does not push to the limit that the country defaults vis-à-vis it foreign liabilities.

 

While one must not expect the government to be pro-poor in free market economy but it should have protected the consumers against the ruthless profiteering of the business community.

 The repercussion of preferring the businesses over the consumers are obvious. While the economy stands predominantly uncompetitive, government can resist allowing foreign products penetrating into the domestic market, no more. The trade deficit is likely to compounding the woes of economy. How country will bridge gap, remains as confounding a question as it was in the unfolding years of the Musharraf regime.

Prospects of political backlash

Take into consideration the scenario in which the Musharraf’s legitimacy is being questioned by the civil society and political parties, it is not difficult to bring the public irritated by the price hike in essential commodities and falling living standards. While mafias in financial sectors, hoarders and monopolists have made people’s life miserable, the government is increasing losing confidence to establish writ of the state.

The persistence of energy crisis and no prospects to tackle the same makes it evidently clear that it will be difficult to keep up the present pace of economic growth while trade deficit is getting unmanageable. Political stakes have been raised too high to let regional trade deliver its benefits in terms of curtailing cost of business and making available to the consumer low priced but quality products.

 No drastic cut has been made to curtail administrative expenditure. Defence budget remains as higher while the role of armed forces still needs to be defined as per the requirements of the global age. While the prospects of real growth are dismal, these two avenues have not been utilised to give breathing space to the masses.

Middle East remains as turbulent while Iran is becoming increasingly under threat of US attack on the nuclear program. So what is evident is that the energy prices will not come down raising prospects that GDP growth target will keep on falling. The first effect will come out in the form of taking back the subsidies made now available to the poor sections and agriculturalists.

In the presence of the less-democratic political parties and their well-known opportunist outlook, one may not expect the passion will not rise among the masses. Even a little provocation can compound the difficult situation the General-president is in right now.

Last but not the least, once the macro-economic indicators start deteriorating the government, no matter who is in command, will not even in the position to grant concession to pacify people’s passions. Will the well-off sections come to the rescue of the government? The answer is that simple: they will not. The best time to construct barriers against anarchy was 2004-5 but this opportunity was lost. The interesting aspect of the game plan of Musharraf’s economic managers is that there will be left none virtually none to expect responsibility if Musharraf too decides to quit, through a deal or otherwise.

Social scientists have a role only in open societies

Social scientists have played a crucial role in helping the states to resolve problems standing in the way of peace and prosperity. When people and their standards of life make the subject of the study, they would come out with excellent solutions. Now, if political leadership has nothing to promote except its factional interest, only astrologers and palmists have got a good business in the polity
 
By Riaz Missen
 
The ex-governor of State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Ishrat Hussain, has taken up the task at Higher Education Commission (HEC) of not only promoting social sciences in Pakistan but also making it a relevant discipline. To his judgment the future of social sciences is bright as the polity abounds in the problems that can only be resolved by its practitioners. Let’s pray for the success of the dear doctor, for the truth that comes from the mouths of the social scientists hardly pleases the sorts of the ruling elite we have.
 
Pakistan is fortunate enough to have social scientists of high stature. They strive for truth regardless of its implications for the interest of the powerful. They speak it without the fear that it will backfire. Dr. Inayatullah of Islamabad Social Science Forum (ISSF) is such a soul. When he emphasises on self-criticism as a method to improve the performance of the academia many faces turn pale. Dr. Tariq Rahman insists that Pakistan is a pluralist society for more than sixty languages are spoken from Himalayas to the Arabian Sea. His suggestion to demarcate the provincial boundaries to preserve this diversity does not auger well with the powers-that-be. Too, let us not forget Dr. Mubarak Ali’s consistent efforts to correct the history being taught in schools and colleges. 
 
Social scientists have played a crucial role in helping the states to resolve problems standing in the way of peace and prosperity. When people and their standards of life make the subject of the study, they would come out with excellent solutions. Now, if political leadership has nothing to promote except its factional interest, only astrologers and palmists have got a good business in the polity.
 
What hunger generates responses in individuals? What do people do when something untoward happens to them? What is the difference in their behaviour in happiness and grief? There are certain traits associated with humans. They react in the socially prescribed ways. They weep, moan and cry in the moments of grief and sorrow. They smile, laugh and dance when happy. Also, they turn mum and find it difficult to express their feelings in a particular environment.
 
Your approach can be termed anything but scientific if you are not dealing with an observable phenomenon. If you are obsessed with fate and waiting for miracles to happen so that some favourable development should occur, social scientists are not the right people to visit. Pick up any Urdu daily and see who else is promising to change your life overnight.
 
Believing in some phenomenon or rejecting it is the same thing in its essence. Both are done on the same principle: scientific reasoning. You only mean altercation if you don’t want to support your argument with concrete evidence. The whole building of knowledge rests on accepted reasoning modes. So, for any advancement in knowledge there should exist a consensus among the parties on the methodology to recognise the truth.
 
Successful polities of the world take the welfare of their people as their main task. They would concentrate on justice, health and education — employment as well. They not only want material and social welfare of society but are also concerned with how to make growth sustainable. Academia is always busy in conducting research, assessing successes and pointing out failures. The government comes out with a strategy which the opposition has the right to criticise. The debate does not take an ugly turn, for academia is there to intervene.
 
Now take the case of developing states. Leadership makes promises but fails every time. There are policies in abundance, but the means to carry them out exist nowhere. When the government starts to the west, the opposition heads to the east. Leaders talk about changing their lives overnight; they promise a future where all and sundry will stand equal in terms of privileges and honour. Academics will only laugh away their ambitions.
 
A country where 72 percent people live on $ 2 a day while chronic monopolies, in both the social and economic realms, hold sway in politics, talk about equality of people is only part of rhetoric. When perpetrators of violence stand for peace and stability, it is just a tactical move to bag votes. Would the rich change their hearts? Will they pay taxes and stop financing their luxurious existence from the national exchequer?
 
Science has no future in a society that is living on dreams. Sometimes people buy them. Other times visions, no matter how faulty and incorrect, are thrust on them. The vested interests outwit the majority through institutionalising their power. Their ill-gotten money is used to buy the loyalties of the people who are supposed to guard the interests of the common man. They support extremists that can flout the law and scorn legality at will. So they impose their will on people and none dares to stand in their way. One may cry, one may weep, but there is no way out. In this world of ours some have got the responsibility to write the fate of others. Criticism is taken as rebellion — opposition is not tolerated at all.
 
“The nation will eat grass to have its nuclear programme,” one of the premiers of Pakistan said. He had a vision to create an Islamic bloc. What did he mean? A social scientist would certainly have wondered what course he would adopt to realise his objective? How Pakistan, economically fragile and politically unstable, would lead a scattered and divided Ummah? Why the monarchs, autocrats and dictators should come under a central authority? Who has got the worth to become a caliph?
 
Turkish leader Mustafa Kamal refused to revive Caliphate system when he got his land freed from the clutches of the enemies. Earlier, the maulanas of united India had issued a decree declaring Hindustan under the British rule the abode of infidels. A large number of people set out for Afghanistan. Denied entrance into this poor country, many died on their way back due to cold and hunger. Even the mighty Moghuls had not entertained such an idea. They knew well how little role religion had in sustaining their empire. The Arabs, the first torchbearers of Islam, don’t think unity of the Ummah politically possible. Why is Pakistan’s leadership fascinated with the idea to lead the Ummah? Just keep on wondering — when you have nothing to do, engage yourself in fantasies.
 
When you don’t believe in science, you don’t belong to the world of knowledge. Think about luck and be ready about grabbing at a chance the circumstances offer you. Don’t believe in the notions called ethics and morality. Be unpredictable in your ways. Be ready to take the law into your own hands when it suits your interests. Don’t think of consequences of your actions if they are inspired by the dictates of the ‘law of necessity’.
 
If you are a ruler, you need not to go beyond promises of peace and prosperity for the commoners. Go to mosques and seek the blessings of mullas. Term madrassas as the biggest NGO network meant for the betterment of the poor. Perform Hajj and Umras frequently at the expense of the national exchequer. Import luxurious limousines on zero duty. Don’t listen to the voices of reason. If you want to succeed, just act in ‘your own way’ and don’t let social scientists roam freely on the face of earth you happen to rule.
 
Postscript: President Niyazov died a natural death recently after ruling his nation, Turkmenistan, for 25 long years. He made the opposition flee the land and became ‘father’ of his nation. He named ports, buildings and even months after the names of his parents. He did not pay any attention to the healthcare system. He got his included biography in the syllabus of schools and colleges. His legacy is intact till now. Another Turkmenbashi now holds the reins of power. He needs everybody to run the country but not social scientists.

Ethnic wounds lay open in Karachi

The right wing politics in Pakistan is one or the other way ethnic in its outcomes. Jamat-e-Islami supported Zia-ul-Haq dictatorial rule for the reason that its amir, Mian Tufail, belonged to East Punjab as did Zia. He also enjoyed berathari link with him — both were Araens. Jamat-e-Islami of today is the bitter opponent of General Pervez Musharraf because its present Amir is Pushtoon and he is naturally opposed to the President-General’s policies against Taliban supposedly fighting on the side of Al-Qaeda (Taliban are predominantly Pushtoons).

By Riaz Missen 

If the people of Pakistan tend to be ethnic in their political attitudes and orientations, it should not be surprising for the academia and the decision-makers at home and abroad. After all the country is not  homogenous c in racial, cultural and linguistic terms. Though identities overlap but they are claimed and asserted, even with violent undertones.

 Pakistan is the land that has been subject to invasion from West and Central Asia. Alexander the Great travelled to conquer this land from Greek to fulfil his dream to see the other end of the earth where ‘sun rises right on the heads of the people’. Persian, Arab, Afghan and Turk kings did invade the land and used it as a base camp to make their advances on ‘pagan’ India.

The landscape is not the same from Himalayas down to the Arabian Sea. Different environmental conditions make people adjust with nature giving birth to different cultural traditions. Too, Pakistan is the land of rivers that have been acting as barriers among various communities residing in their floodplains.  The economy has been simple, so were their ways of life. Multan and Sindh have been the most prominent ‘countries’ that used to become provinces when some powerful empire emerged in their surrounding regions. Kashmir has also remained politically organised in history. As soon as the neighbouring empires declined, various local kingdoms, other than mentioned above, surfaced in the valley.

Sindh was successfully invaded and captured by Ummayads on the pretext that its ruler was non-Muslim. They invaded Multan for another reason: Qaramtas had taken hold of Multan and were considered relatively liberal than the orthodox Sunni Islam. And, the practice was repeated again and again while the reason remained the same. The country was devastated to the effect that the invaders changed their route to enter into India. But this traditionally evolved state remained mostly under the Afghan influence till its occupation by Sikhs, followed by the British.

Today’s Balochistan has never been an integral part of the kingdoms that rose for time and again in the Indus Valley. Rather it has been either under Iranian influence or served as a buffer zone between Iran and India. These were the British who snatched this area from Iran. Same is the case with the NWFP which has been mostly considered part of Afghanistan except in times when some powerful Indian empire annexed these areas. Mostly, the Indus River has been making the upside boundary of India. Sutlej has acted as its second line of defence.

 A prominent linguist, Dr Tariq Rahman, has counted fifty plus languages in Pakistan. He has duly identified this factor as providing basis for ethno-nationalism in Pakistan. How these forces are vocal as well as effective in politics can be gauged by the fact that the country has been once disintegrated when Bengalis demanded a separate homeland and fought valiantly for their cause. Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan after a violent struggle of the ethno-nationalists of East Pakistan. The existence of ethnic feelings in Pakistan is also evident from the formation of Pakistan Oppressed Nations Movement, popularly called Ponam, as well as the ongoing Baloch insurgency.

The right wing politics in Pakistan is one or the other way ethnic in its outcomes. Jamat-e-Islami supported Zia-ul-Haq dictatorial rule for the reason that its amir, Mian Tufail, belonged to East Punjab as did Zia. He also enjoyed berathari link with him — both were Araens. Jamat-e-Islami of today is the bitter opponent of General Pervez Musharraf because its present Amir is Pushtoon and he is naturally opposed to the President-General’s policies against Taliban supposedly fighting on the side of Al-Qaeda (Taliban are predominantly Pushtoons).

 The Karachi killings of May 12 are being projected by the opposition parties as a symbolic gesture of the Urdu speaking community of Pakistan vis-à-vis rest of the population of the country. The MQM, representing the interest of the Urdu speaking population of Sindh and dominating the politics of the province, allegedly resorted to violence in reaction to opposition’s attempt to make a big show of the Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s visit to Karachi as part of his campaign he is waging, with the help of the opposition parties, to protest against Musharraf’s move to make him dysfunctional through filing reference against him in the apex court of the country.

The non-Urdu members of the ruling camp have voiced their concerns over Karachi killings and there is move within the camp not to let Musharraf prolong his rule. Analysts believe the Punjab’s politicians are successfully diverting hatred against their province towards the Urdu-speaking community supporting General Pervez Musharraf. It is the fact the President-General has duly recognised by complaining that the ruling party is not supporting him as he would have expected.

That Punjab leadership is making the MQM a scapegoat to end long-held hatred of the smaller ‘nations’ of the country, the future scenario is difficult to conceive right now. There are unconfirmed reports that a sizeable number of PML-Q leaders have contacted PML-N that they are ready to join it after they get a positive signal. PPP-P has also made such claims recently. MMA is the ardent supporter of opposition’s move against the MQM to reoccupy the political space it lost in Karachi during last general elections and the last local body polls. The Punjab leadership has floated the idea to support the old demand of smaller provinces for more space to manage their affairs vis-à-vis the federation.

 It is worth mentioning that MQM has been involved in conscious efforts to transform its identity into a national party rather than that representing the interest of the Urdu-speaking minority. Going by its constitution, its name is roughly United National Movement while it stands for protecting the interests of the middle and lower classes of the country in a feudal society. Too, its leadership vows to protect the rights of oppressed nations of Pakistan. Notably, the MQM stands for re-writing of the constitution and redrawing provincial boundaries to this effect. It has supported the nationalists of the country, particularly Sindh and the party has recorded its protest over the killing of Akbar Bugti by the security forces as well as the plans to construct Kalabagh dam in line with the Ponam parties. The MQM was successfully getting ground outside Sindh as well but the situation has drastically changed after the May 12 incidents.

A lot has come clear to the leadership of the MQM but its dilemma ship is exemplary: it can’t abandon Musharraf ; it can’t also risk to standby him after all Musharraf has to go sooner and later and the repercussions will only be borne this party. The future of the MQM can be well gauged by the statement of Pir Pagaro, the leader of his own faction of Pakistan Muslim League. “MQM is pitted against the whole of Pakistan,” he commented while the opposition was calling strike against this party after unfortunate incidents in Karachi. Given the experience of Benazir era during which mass murder of MQM workers was carried out by security forces, the scenario following Musharraf’s removal seems bleak for this party. Probably, Pakistan is the country where history will keep repeating itself.

If MQM fails to escape the trap laid down supposedly by the indigenous ethnic groups of the society, the right wing parties will emerge as the main beneficiary. Ethnicity not religious militancy will come to the fore as one of the major issue of Pakistani politics. As well evident by some reports of foreign media, ethnic violence will change the view of the foreign powers that are now obsessed with the question of religious extremism in Pakistan.