New Age Islam Edit Bureau
23 October 2017
By Huma Yusuf
By Hajrah Mumtaz
New Transparency Regime in Pakistan
By Muhammad Anwar
Fortifying Pakistan’s Future
By Joanna Reid
New Leader on Foreign Aid Front
By M Ziauddin
Ah, the National Narrative
By Syed Talat Hussain
The Options for Nawaz Sharif?
By Dr Hasan Askari Rizvi
The Sheikhs of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
By Zaigham Khan
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
October 23, 2017
A HOSTAGE rescue. A drone strike. Courtesy
phone calls. High-level official visits. Pakistan and the United States are
trying to re-establish ties, however fledgling, after the Trump administration
unveiled its South Asia strategy, which takes a harder line against Pakistan
for allegedly harbouring militant groups, and calls for an expanded role for
India in Afghanistan — the opposite of Pakistan’s preference for what should
unfold across its western border.
The overtures are welcome for those who
believe Pakistan should maintain a multipronged foreign policy comprising
strong alliances with stronger nations. Conversely, they have been met with
cynicism by US sceptics — the American-Canadian couple was conveniently
recovered the day before a US delegation arrived in Islamabad; the US drone
strike that allegedly killed the chief of Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) took place days
before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s scheduled visit to Islamabad in
what is being seen as a reciprocal and reconciliatory gesture. Both camps can
agree that this is not the stuff of a coordinated bilateral relationship with
shared strategic objectives; it is the piecemeal politics of placation.
Grand gestures aside, the fundamental
challenges of the US-Pakistan relationship persist. The US is frustrated by
Pakistan’s dubious counterterrorism credentials. Even while seeking to thaw
frosty relations, Washington has called out Pakistan for supporting militant
groups. Earlier this month, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff told a
congressional hearing that Pakistan’s agencies had links to militant groups;
and even while Trump was gloating about improved ties between the two
countries, the director of the CIA announced that US citizen Caitlin Campbell
and her family had been held hostage by the Haqqani network for five years in
Pakistan (and not Afghanistan, as our security forces had indicated).
Fundamental challenges exist for Pak-US
Pakistan, meanwhile, remains concerned
about the destabilising effects of US meddling in the region, which could
manifest in several ways: growing Indian influence in Afghanistan; an
increasingly dysfunctional and hostile government in Kabul; entrenched
sanctuaries for anti-Pakistan militant groups such as JuA and the TTP across the
Durand Line; and regional designs against CPEC.
As long as these divergent objectives and
concerns remain, the US-Pakistan relationship will be stuck in a rut. But we
can no longer dismiss this as a foreign policy irritant — the rut damages
Islamabad’s fraught ties with Washington
leads to knee-jerk foreign policymaking on other fronts, including the
all-eggs-in-one-basket approach of cosying up to China in order to have a
reliable counterweight to the US. This approach involves geostrategic and economic
concessions, the full implications of which Pakistan has yet to understand. It
is also one that will become entrenched during the Trump administration in
light of the US president’s truncated flirtation with Xi Jingping, and
Tillerson’s public critique of China as a destabilising force and economic
predator. As US-China tensions escalate, Pakistan will gradually find itself
choosing a side.
Clumsy rapprochements with Washington also
undermine Pakistan’s democratic set-up. The relationship with the US is
dominated by our military, but the fallout is left to the civilian government
to manage. Analysts speculate that the drone strike that apparently killed Omar
Khalid Khorasani indicates a resumption in military and intelligence
cooperation between Islamabad and Washington. But it’s the government that has
to cover the tracks of America’s unpopular drone strike policy. While in the
US, our foreign minister responded to the sudden uptick in drone strikes in and
around Kurram Agency with hemming and hawing about indeterminate territory and
fuzzy borders. Pakistan’s lack of transparency regarding its involvement in
and tolerance for US drone strikes has eroded the government’s credibility with
Contortions in US-Pakistan ties also fuel
conspiracy theories that stymie Pakistan’s chances of developing a clear
narrative against terrorism — those who speak out against militant activity on
Pakistani soil are labelled American stooges, and their position is perceived
to be sinister rather than in the long-term interests of the country.
Meanwhile, militant groups continue to capitalise on anti-Americanism to
attract increasingly diverse recruits.
As such, it’s in Pakistan’s interest to
refresh the US-Pakistan relationship. Perhaps one way forward is to focus on
issues beyond the Afghanistan — and by extension, India — angle. Secretary
Tillerson has indicated that he will explore improved economic ties between the
US and Pakistan during his visit. Our representatives should try to generate
more US support for CPEC, and Pakistan’s economic growth overall. A
conversation about regional security concerns couched in the language of
economic opportunity may offer one way to break out of the rut.
IT’S got to be saying something when the
high point of your day is the fact that you have seen not one, not two, but
three garbage trucks on your daily commute. All in one day, all piled high with
trash, offering a drop of hope in the ocean of despair that is the country’s
Pakistan is in general drowning under the
weight of the trash it generates and cannot seem to find a way of disposing of
it correctly. This is not to say that this isn’t a global problem. The waste
generated by humanity and its activities is rapidly filling up the oceans,
poisoning marine life that mistakes particles of plastic for food and ingests
them, and creating vast landfills full of material that will take thousands of
years to break down.
Several developing countries have become
dumping grounds for throwaway material coming from the West, where a number of
countries are not just the top generators of waste — think about the layers
upon layers of packaging used for everyday items in North America, for example
— but also places where strict laws about what can be dumped where are
stringently imposed. Thus, humanity adds to the environmental pollution that
has just been identified (surprise, surprise!) as the cause of millions of deaths
globally by ferrying around ships filled with trash to be cheaply ‘disposed of’
in countries where the rules and regulations are less strict.
We are drowning under the weight of the
trash we generate.
Pakistan, by the way, is one of these
countries — the recycling industry at Sher Shah in Karachi is underpinned by
computer and electronic waste coming from abroad; workers earn their wages
through it, of course, but that also means that unnecessary amounts of harmful
chemicals present in the parts, such as cadmium and lead, leach into the
But to come back to the issue of Pakistan’s
own waste. The problem is all too visible in Karachi, where even the poshest of
areas are home to vast mounds of garbage that have nowhere to go.
These continue to pile up until someone
loses their patience with the city authorities and sets the garbage on fire.
And then, of course, large toxic clouds of ugliness are generated. This being
the situation in the more upmarket areas in the city, that which prevails in the
less fortunate parts has to be seen to be believed. A much-talked about news
photo a few years ago showed a boy diving into the Lyari ‘river’, the surface
of which appeared to be not water or sewage or even anything liquid, but a huge
morass of compacted waste, mainly that most evil of inventions, the plastic
Karachi has reportedly recently outsourced
at least some of its garbage collection needs to a Chinese company, and in the
area where I commute I have seen a few newly installed dustbins that have
Chinese lettering on them. So did the trucks that I saw.
But I have been unable to find an answer to
the greater question: picking up the garbage is one thing, but where is all of
it going to go? From time to time, reports show up in the press that the
landfills serving the city are full and, in fact, have been so for years. Waste
that is taken there has to be compacted by bulldozers, and even then, it is set
alight from time to time for whatever good that might do. But I have heard or
read nothing about the establishing of new landfills; in any case, landfills
are not a very efficient solution to waste disposal problems since they eat up
greater and greater chunks of land around urban areas, and it takes years for
the land to be rehabilitated for any other use.
Those who care enough about Karachi and the
country’s garbage problem, though, can themselves play a significant role. To
begin with, citizens can themselves fairly easily significantly reduce the
amount of waste their own households generate — as a first step, by declining
to use polythene shopping bags as often as possible. There may be a need to use
a bag in which to carry home eggs, for example, but a loaf of bread — which, in
many cases already comes wrapped in plastic — certainly does not require one. A
reusable cloth bag or jute basket — remembers those days? — can be used.
Especially for those people who transport goods in a car or on a bike, a large
carton makes better sense than polythene; at least it decomposes faster and can
Those with the awareness to see the problem
need to make themselves responsible for at least some part of the solution. Ask
yourself, how many times have you on city roads seen a hand reach out of the
window of an expensive car to throw out an empty packet of crisps?
From time to time provincial governments
have tried to ban polythene bags of various thickness; why does the citizenry
not take responsibility?
October 22, 2017
Finally the Right of Access to Information
Act, assented to by the country’s president on October 10, 2017, has repealed
the Freedom of Information (FOI) Ordinance 2002. The FOI Ordinance was a very
weak law which could not guarantee citizens the constitutional right to access
information held by public bodies. Article 19-A, inserted in the Constitution
of Pakistan through 18th constitutional amendment, states that ‘every citizens
shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public
importance subject to regulation and reasonable restrictions imposed by the
law’. Since the 18th constitutional amendment was passed in 2010, the new law
on right to information was long overdue.
The new law has many positive attributes.
It puts in place an autonomous information commission, comprising the chief
information commissioner and two information commissioners. This information
commission has to be established within six months of the commencement of the
Act or by April 2018. The primary responsibility of the information commission
is to receive and decide on appeals, in case the public bodies deny the
information requests. The law has equipped the information commission with
sufficient punitive powers. The information commission has the power of civil
courts in respect to summoning and enforcing the attendance of witnesses and
compelling them to give oral or written evidence on oath or requiring public
bodies to produce the record. The information commission has the power to impose
a fine on officials, who has acted wilfully to obstruct the access of
information to the applicant, equivalent to salary of one day to maximum 100
days. Non-compliance with the orders of the information commission can be dealt
with the same way as contempt of court. Similar information commissions have
already been constituted in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) under the
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act of 2013 and in Punjab province
under the Punjab Transparency and Right
to Information Act of 2013. Another such commission is awaited in Sindh
province under the Sindh Transparency and Right to Information Act of 2016.
This is a major departure from the FOI
Ordinance 2002, whereby the appellant body, in case of refusal of information
requests by the public bodies, was the federal ombudsman. The federal ombudsman
had no punitive powers as far as the non-compliance with the FOI Ordinance was
The Right to Access to Information Act 2017
fulfils the international standard of strong mechanism for the implementation
of the law.
The public bodies from which the citizens
can request information under the federal Right of Access to Information Act of
2017 include federal ministries, divisions, attached departments, autonomous
bodies of the federal government, the National Assembly and the Senate, the
Supreme Court of Pakistan, federal, municipal or any local body established
under federal law, any statutory corporation or body incorporated or institute
established owned or controlled by the federal government. However, the public
bodies also include NGOs which are receiving public funds, subsidies or tax
exemption or any other organisation which performs public functions.
Unlike the FOI Ordinance 2002, the citizens
now don’t need to show any reason or fee for filing information requests with
any federal public body. The information request can be filed in person, by
mail, fax or email. Within 30 days after the commencement of the law, all
federal public bodies have to designate officials, who should not be below
grade 19, to respond to information requests under the law. The law also
provides details of the information exempted from public access.
The right to information is oxygen for
democracy, and the new federal right of access to information law is a good
start. Pakistan is also now member of the Open Government Partnership. However,
as the case of Punjab and K-P depicts, a very good law on paper can’t ensure
citizens access to information without the political will of the incumbent
Malnutrition is a tragedy wherever it
occurs. It is, however, a tragedy that we can fix. Around the world, one in
three people are affected by malnutrition. Women and children suffer the most.
Malnutrition hurts the development of individuals, their productivity and their
health, but it also holds back the economic and social development of their
community, their country and the world.
This is a global problem that needs global
cooperation, but Pakistan has a specific challenge. It is home to 6% of the
world’s chronically malnourished children, and has the third-highest level of
chronic malnutrition in the world.
One of the biggest challenges for people
who are malnourished is the lack of certain vitamins and nutrients. This has a
wider impact on a person’s health. The lack of iron and vitamins A and D, for
example, limits the ability to fight disease. This means that too many newborn
babies and children are dying of minor illnesses. According to Unicef, every
year over 200,000 children die in Pakistan of factors relating to malnutrition
before reaching their fifth birthday.
Malnutrition also inhibits the brain growth
of babies and children. Malnourished children enrol in school later have
reduced learning ability and have lower productivity when they reach adulthood.
The damage from chronic malnutrition in the first two years of life is
irreversible. It leads to and keeps people in poverty. The UN estimates that
malnutrition costs Pakistan 2% to 3% of its GDP a year.
The number of people affected in Pakistan
is significant. According to the most recent survey by the UN Food and
Agriculture Organisation, published in 2011, 44% of children under five years
old were stunted, 32% underweight, 62% with anaemia and 54% with vitamin A
deficiency. Some 51% of pregnant women in Pakistan had anaemia and 69% vitamin
Pakistan and the UK working together on
this can make a difference.
Global experience shows food fortification
to be one of the most cost effective solutions to address chronic micronutrient
deficiencies. Given that wheat flour, edible oils and ghee are consumed daily
by most people in Pakistan, fortification of these staple foods can enhance
micronutrients in food without requiring changes in eating habits.
Combating malnutrition is at the heart of
the UK’s work in Pakistan. Working with the government and provinces of
Pakistan, UK Aid is investing more than six billion rupees over the next five
years to improve the nutritional status of people in Pakistan, particularly
women of child-bearing age and young children, through food fortification. The
programme will achieve this by improving access to and consumption of wheat
flour which is fortified with iron and folic acid, and edible oils and ghee
fortified with vitamins A and D.
This week, we launched our food
fortification initiative in Punjab. Working alongside the province and local
producers, we have started fitting micro-feeder equipment in flour mills — the
machines that the flour producers will use to add vitamins and nutrients, while
providing quality assurance equipment to both the mills and public laboratories
for the testing of fortification standards by Pakistan in Pakistan.
Improving nutrition isn’t as easy as just
fitting equipment to flour mills. More provinces need to introduce legislation
mandating fortification in wheat flour, and enforcement of legislation needs to
be stepped up. Food manufacturers need support to increase technical capacity,
and consumers need to understand the benefit of choosing fortified food for
their families. The Food Fortification Programme will not be able to do this on
its own. We are therefore working with different levels of government, as well
as producers and manufacturers.
We are excited about what we will be able
to achieve together. In the next three years, the Food Fortification Programme
aims to ensure that around half of the population of Pakistan is consuming fortified
wheat flour and over two-thirds are using fortified edible oil and ghee. This
will mean Pakistan has a population that is healthier, more productive and
better able to meet its enormous potential.
October 21, 2017
China seems poised to become the leader of
international development activities as the United States and Europe appear to
be retreating from their international aid responsibilities.
At the 2015 UN Sustainable Development
Summit in New York, China had pledged $2 billion to help implement the SDG
agenda and Beijing is among the fastest to deliver on its commitment.
Having lifted some 470 million of its own
citizens out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2005, China is said to possess
not only the tools to become a leading international developer, it also has the
relevant experience. And more than anything else, China seems to have grabbed
the political opportunity offered to play a bigger role in international donor
Since the turn of the century, China is
estimated to have disbursed nearly as much aid as the United States, but has
kept this activity low-key and more or less far from the international glare.
The second highest recipient of Chinese
foreign aid between 2000 and 2014 was Pakistan at $24.3 billion, followed by
Angola at $16.6 billion. In the same period, Russia was ranked at the top of
the list of Chinese aid recipients at $36.6 billion. Over the next ten years,
Pakistan is likely to displace Russia from its top position of Chinese aid
recipients as Islamabad is expected to consume as much as $60 billion of
Chinese flows between 2017 and 2027 absorbing around a billion dollars a year
on an average.
Chinese foreign aid to Pakistan is a mix of
two varieties — grants plus concessional loans and commercial loans — with the
official flows predominating while Russia gets almost exclusively the latter
category — and is mostly about getting the thirsty Chinese economy access to
Russia’s huge reserves of oil.
Total Chinese foreign aid between 2000 and
2014 of $354.3 billion to 140 countries and territories was not far behind the
US total of $394.6 billion, though the types of projects the aid funded were on
the whole vastly different.
Interestingly, China seems to be beating
the US at its own game without perhaps lifting a finger as since President
Trump’s election America seems to be going back to the good old coal days for
energy while China is being seen making massive investments in electric
According to a Washington Post column,
China’s leaders have let it be known that by 2025 they want 20% of all new cars
sold in China to be powered by alternative fuels. All of this has already
translated into jobs.
According to a recent UN report China has
invested $78.3 billion in renewable energy in 2016 which is estimated to be
almost twice as much as the US. In 2015, China was producing the largest
numbers of wind-turbines and solar-panels while keeping the costs under control
with generous government subsidies.
China is pumping billions into developing
artificial intelligence (AI) in an effort to dominate the industry, according
to the Financial Times. And it’s not clear whether the US will have the
resources to keep up.
Both countries are ploughing money and
talent into AI, but Beijing’s blueprint for investing in artificial
intelligence underlines its desire to beat Washington.
“‘When it comes to government data, the US
doesn’t match what China collects on its citizens at all,’ says James Lewis,
senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. ‘They have
a big sandbox to play in and a lot of toys and good people.’”
“China’s check book is also unmatched in
the US, where budgets are being cut. ‘The Chinese invest billions, we [the US]
spend millions. It’s hard to see how you win it when you are being outspent a
thousand to one.’”
Ah, The National Narrative
There was a time when no debate on serious
matters involving core national interests was complete without the word
‘strategic’. Used to add emphasis and weight to even the most inessential
events or policy proposals, this adjective also remained a handy tool to
prevent discourse and undermine discussion.
Anything that was pre-fixed with
‘strategic’ suddenly became sacred. It was assumed that it had acquired
qualities that could only be ignored by getting your patriotism licence suspended
or even cancelled. Nuclear weapons, military takeovers, relations with aid- or
oil-giving countries, growth of militants groups etc were all placed in the
‘strategic cabin’ with the tag that these matters stood automatically approved
and implemented because of their intrinsic value.
While the word ‘strategic’ is still in use,
its centrality seems to have been diluted by another arrival: narrative.
Generic to all forms of writing, this noun (also an adjective) is now a
keystone without which no national scheme or conversation can be built. It is
the most sought-after term for policy planners and media gurus. It is regarded,
at once, as the source of all our national problems and a solution to them.
‘Pakistan’s image isn’t improving because
our narrative is weak’. ‘India’s narrative is strong and that is why it is able
to convince the world to look the other way even while it commits heinous
crimes in Occupied Kashmir’. ‘If only we could push our narrative harder at
global forums, the comity of nations would be more empathetic to our stance’.
‘Those who go against the national narrative are enemies of the country’.
‘Where is our narrative?’ ‘Let us build a narrative; and that will address all
These and other desires, hopes and fears
centred on the new darling word ‘narrative’ make it seem as though Pakistan’s
future and its present can be secured by installing this literary device in
everything we do – because without a national narrative ‘we are nothing’.
So what explains this ‘strategic shift’ in
favour of ‘narrative’ whose dictionary meanings are rather ordinary: ‘record’,
‘description’ ‘account’, chronicle’. What is this obsession with narrative?
The obsession is easy to explain since it
is a product of social media whose tools have exponentially expanded the reach
of the ‘spoken’ and ‘written’ word. It has made ordinary statements impactful
even if not truthful and respectable. The sheer number of users (44 million
social media accounts nationally; 2.8 billion social media users globally, just
to quote two figures) makes it important to get your voice out or you’ll be
drowned in this ever-expanding universe of social media.
What adds to the explanation is the fact
that narrative is a sophisticated and new-generation form of propagation of a
particular point of view. In essence, it is propaganda by another name. And, at
times, propaganda is essential. If you don’t do it, your enemies will defeat
you by building a case against you through their propaganda. So narratives are
This we all understand. But what is not
understood is that national narratives in this day and age have become complex
products that are born of equally complex decision-making systems. These
systems work in sync with each other. They have the capability of crafting consensus
within themselves before they begin to speak to the world through a national
To explain this point further it is
important to know what a narrative is not. To begin with, it is not a statement
or a string of statements delivered over a period of time. It is a not a
register of press conferences nor is it an occasional outpouring of data and
statistics to prove a particular point of view. National narrative is also not
a point of view of an individual or an institution. It most certainly is not a
well-meaning yet foisted-from-above thesis that is never debated or discussed
and yet elevated to the level of national aspiration.
So if it is not any of the above, what is
it then? A national narrative is essentially packaging of policies, strategies,
actions that aim to achieve a certain national goal over a period of time.
Since goals become achievable when their projection is robust, and national
policies become marketable when in the company of mass advertisement, therefore
narratives are helpful.
The precondition for successful national
narratives, however, is that they must be married to policies and actions.
Minus coherent policies, narratives are just wasted decibels. It is wholly
foolish to think that we can have a narrative without a policy or action that
constantly endorses it. No less silly is to assume that national narratives
become effective just because they are being projected at the national or
global scale. Just like no war plan survives the first bullet fired, no
narrative can be sustainable if it is not plausible to the intended audience –
in our case, for instance, the international community.
Narratives are not lies and deceit. They
are not slogans and shouting matches with the enemy. They need to be credible
and plausible to resonate with and change opinions in their favour. Moreover,
the carriers of the content of these narratives must also be credible. You
don’t pick up the North Korean Times to find out whether Kim is a great leader
or not. Nor do you ask Ivanka and Tiffany about Trump’s successes. Compromised
carriers of narratives destroy the content they put out.
However, the most critical ingredient of a
national narrative is that it is consensus-based and is hotly debated before
being beamed out for wider consumption. Without being grounded in national
consensus, the narrative collapses even before it is launched.
With this in mind you can understand what
is wrong with our narrative and why, despite our best efforts, nothing we say
seems to change the world in our favour. For all our sacrifices, pain,
suffering, achievements and headway on the counterterrorism front, the world
continues to point an accusatory finger at us. For all the continuity of
democracy and its progress in the country, the world looks at Pakistan as a
country teetering on the brink of another military takeover. For all the
numbers we show to the world related to the media industry, we score very low
when it comes to real freedoms of expression and opinion.
That is either because our policies and
actions are out sync, or because our rhetoric and reality rebel against each
other or because our narrative is not distilled from a genuine process of
national debate that could throw up a vision that most, if not everybody, has
signed up on.
Our narratives are seasonal statements
steeped in the bias or need of whoever is in power. They are not wedded to
consistency of conduct. Debate is anathema and reconciliation of different
institutional positions is considered a sin. With a divided home – and we have
worked really hard to divide it – we want to present a united front. With
knives out for each other at home we want to present to the international
community a pleasant face. We choke each other in a game of self-serving
publicity and yet expect the world to hear a single voice from Pakistan. In
this situation, no narrative can be created – much less projected – with a
reasonable degree of success.
Our decision-making systems are working at
cross-purposes without even knowing what their real purposes are. On economy,
foreign policy, defence matters, democracy, stability, fundamental freedoms, we
remain victims of internal structural disharmony. Don’t expect symphonies to
flow when the orchestra is broken. Don’t expect narratives to spring forth when
the narrator is so badly conflicted – as our system at present is.
The Options For Nawaz Sharif?
The decision of the Accountability Court to
charge Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law with corrupt financial
practices this week has wide-ranging implications for Pakistan. It demonstrates
the will of the judicial system to address corruption in the higher echelons of
government. However, the political circles are sharply divided on this issue
which has increased uncertainty about the future direction of democratic
The Sharif family is questioning the
legitimacy of the court to prosecute them on these issues. Their prosecution is
being projected as a civil-military conflict rather than an issue of corruption
and money laundering by some power elite. The PML-N loyalists are subscribing
to this narrative and some of the prominent party leaders, including federal
and Punjab ministers, make no secret of their strong reservations about the
role of the military and the judiciary. Other political parties reject the
PML-N narrative of the on-going accountability of the Sharif family. This has
caused a sharp confrontational environment between the PML-N and other political
parties, especially the PTI led by Imran Khan. The PPP is also criticising the
PML-N’s campaign against the superior judiciary and the military.
These developments have also caused some
internal tensions in the PML-N. Nawaz Sharif is using his political clout to
defuse these internal party tensions so that there is no internal revolt
against his policy of confrontation with the superior judiciary and the
military. The key dilemma that the PML-N activists are facing is whether they
continue to blindly support the Sharif family’s court battle and the political
campaign or should they protect the long-term interests of the PML-N by opting
for Shehbaz Sharif for leading the party during the on-going troubled time.
This option faces two challenges. If the
Hudabiya case or the Model Two killings case is resumed, the Shehbaz option may
run into difficulties. The Shehbaz option is not yet acceptable to Nawaz who
wants to keep the leadership in his immediate family. These tensions are
expected to rise as the trial of the Sharif family advances.
What are the political options available to
Nawaz to save him from the court conviction and keep a firm control over they
party to ensure that the “throne of power” stays in his immediate family. He
has several options available to him. First, he can deal with the court cases
in a purely legal way. If the Accountability Court gives an adverse judgment,
an appeal can be filed with the High Court and the Supreme Court. No useful
purpose will be served by politicising the court cases by describing them as
Second, he can engage in popular
mobilisation by holding public rallies and protest rallies in different parts
of Punjab to force the closure of cases against him and his family. Nawaz may
hold party rallies but, in the absence of support from other political parties,
he cannot generate enough momentum to paralyse the legal proceedings. There is
hardly any sympathy for Nawaz with reference to corruption and money laundering
issues beyond the hardcore of his political party.
Third, Nawaz may attempt to expand his
political support by winning over the support of the PPP and the MQM in the two
houses of parliament to pass a new Accountability Law to replace the existing
legal and administrative system for dealing with corruption cases. The PML-N is
already working on this strategy by bringing in a law that will neutralise
current cases against the Sharif family and undo his disqualification. However,
the PML-N has not so far made a very attractive political offer to bring the
PPP or the MQM on board.
Fourth, the election of Senate members in
March is expected to improve the strength of the PML-N in that house. If it can
obtain the support of some opposition parties, especially the PPP and the MQM,
it can amend the Constitution to restore Nawaz’s political status as well as
adopt measures to increase political control of the military and the superior
judiciary, especially on matters of appointment, promotion and a cut back on
the powers of the army chief. It may also increase the role of parliament and
the civilian government in the accountability of judges and generals.
These ideas are floating in the political
system, mainly in the circles close to the ruling PML-N. The current federal
government is focused only on how to protect Nawaz and his family from the
on-going accountability. Some of the federal ministers have become the “drum
beaters” of the “save Nawaz” campaign and are using the state resources for the
campaign that also includes propaganda against the army and the superior
judiciary. The National Assembly speaker is also engaged in this partisan
exercise. The Punjab government lends some support to the campaign.
Time holds the key to the success of the
“save Nawaz Sharif” campaign. If the Accountability Court case proceeds on its
normal pace, it is expected to be settled by the end of December. This limits
the PML-N options to overcome the current crisis. However, if the court process
is delayed up to March-April, the PML-N stands a better chance to make a bid to
use the democratic process to safeguard its partisan interests.
The strain in civil-military relations can
intensify, if the PML-N actively mobilises parliamentary support for acquiring
a legal and constitutional role in internal organisational affairs of the three
services, including the appointment, promotion and posting of senior officers.
Professional militaries are averse to such political interference in internal
Any attempt on the part of the PML-N to
short-circuit the established legal and constitutional procedures to protect
the Sharif family entails serious hazards for internal stability and can
adversely affect the efforts to cope with the current economic challenges and
external security pressures. There is a need to adopt a dispassionate approach
on all these matters keeping in view the overall national interest.
Politics has no shame. Why should the PTI
be an exception only because it claims to be as pious as a Sheikh Sahab in
Ghalib’s verse? There is no point in reminding the PTI that a metro-bus project
used to be a sinful idea just a few months ago; its wizards had offered to build
Islamabad’s Metro in seven billion rupees only, while its government intends to
spend Rs48 billion on a similar project in Peshawar; PTI leaders used to swear
by holy names that a Metro in Peshawar could be constructed only over their
Peshawar is getting clogged and requires a
decent public transport system. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a relatively cost
effective model, tested and tried in dozens of world cities, including three in
a province ruled by the hated dynasty of the Sharif family.
Road infrastructure consumes a good part of
our development budget, both at the national and provincial levels. Much of the
road infrastructure is built to cater to the needs of motorists, completely
ignoring pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport. Rapid Bus Transit
(RBT), called Metro in Punjab, has reversed this trend to some extent,
providing relief to millions of urban commuters.
Unfortunately, the Punjab government has
built metro-bus projects as monuments, overspending on its air-conditioned
terminals and providing a heavy subsidy to its users at the cost of a large
majority of public transport users in the rest of the province who remain
deprived of the basic facilities. I hope that the PTI government has had a
chance to correct some of the mistakes made in Punjab’s RBT.
Unfortunately, it is not just metro-buses
that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is trying to emulate in a desperate bid to woo the KP
voter, known for never electing a government twice. It is the whole model of
development adopted by the Shahbaz Sharif government that is being replicated
in KP. The PML-N has excelled in patronage-based governance, spending
excessively on favourite constituencies and districts, ignoring the less
privileged areas. This is exactly what the PTI government has done in KP.
To be fair, this model was not invented by
the PML-N government. This is the order of things since Independence. Some
geographical areas have better representation in bureaucracy and political
leadership. These areas receive a huge chunk of public goods at the cost of
less developed areas.
During the last financial year, the Punjab
government allocated Rs134 billion for 445 schemes of Lahore out of a total
district-based allocation of Rs229 billion. The second highest allocation for
development schemes went to southern Punjab’s Multan which got only a three
percent share with Rs8.2 billion for such projects.
The Omar Asghar Khan Foundation (OAKF), a
leading development sector organisation working in KP, has carried out an
excellent analysis of the province’s current budget which reveals the real
policies of the PTI government.
Nowshera, the home district of Chief
Minister Pervez Khattak, has received Rs5.47 billion (2.63 percent), which is
only slightly less than Rs5.9 billion (2.63 percent) – the development budget
received by the six districts of the Hazara division. Within the Hazara
divison, Haripur District, with a population of one million, has received 14
times more budget than the poor Battagram district with a population of half a
The six least developed districts, mostly
located in the south (Bannu, Hangu, Karak, Kohat, Lakki Marwat and Tank) with a
population of 4.7 million have received a mere Rs3.67 billion. Three persons in
these districts are barely equal to a single person in the district of the
According to a government assessment of
multidimensional poverty in Pakistan (2016), 60-70 percent of households in
Nowshera were poor in 2004. This has reduced to 30-40 percent in 2015.
Comparatively, poverty in Tank has remained constant in the meantime, since
more than 70 percent of its households are still categorised as poor.
The unfair distribution of resources may a
major reason behind this disparity. According to Rashida Dohad of OAKF, “The
people of Tank have minimal opportunities to move out of poverty with just
Rs0.06 billion allocated for its development in 2017-18, compared to Rs5.47
billion given to Nowshera, only because it is the home district of the Sultan
Ironically, provinces receive their
allocation from the NFC on the basis of population and poverty but spend it on
the basis of patronage. This is exacerbating disparities within the provinces,
particularly in Punjab and KP.
The current budget shows that funds for
local government have also failed to meet the threshold set by the Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2013, ie, at least 30 percent of the total
ADP. In FY2017-18, the allocation for local government is Rs32.5 billion, ie,
26 percent of total development funds. If the vertical transfer under District
ADP is considered, then the funds for local government are reduced to Rs28.0
billion, ie, 22.22 percent of the total.
The provincial government’s inability to
meet the minimum level of fiscal decentralisation it set itself may indicate
the priority it places on this important governance reform.
Even more surprising is the decision to
divert some of the funds for local government towards allocating Rs0.56 billion
as public interest funds for the use of the chief minister, and Rs0.28 billion
for the finance minister who belongs to the Jamaat-e-Islami, the PTI’s
coalition partner in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The PTI’s main slogan has been to focus on
human development rather than the brick and mortal development model followed
by the PML-N governments. However, a high priority in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s
budget for FY2017-18 appears to be voter-friendly public spending on
infrastructure, ie roads, building, housing, industries, transport and urban
development. Combined, they are allocated Rs77.37 billion which accounts for
37.2 percent of the total budget. This funding is nearly double the Rs30.28
billion or 18.81 percent allocated to this sector in FY2016-17.
According to OAKF, “This steep rise likely
signals preparations for the 2018 elections. Compared to infrastructure, less
priority is given to health. Its allocation has reduced from Rs17.48 billion or
10.86 percent in FY2016-17 to Rs16.47 billion or 7.92 percent this year. This
is lower than the average allocation of 8.48 percent over the past five fiscal
How will the KP government treat Fata after
integration? The way it treats Bannu or the way it treats Nowshera? Will the KP
government not divert resources meant for Fata to its favourite areas? Is that
the main reason for KP being so keen on integrating Fata?
These policies bring to question the tall
claims made by the PTI regarding its war on corruption. Is this misallocation
of resources not a form of robbery meant to get political benefits? Who is
responsible for those who remain uneducated or die because their funds have
been diverted elsewhere? Does it really matter to a person in Tank how honestly
the money stolen from him was spent in Nowshera? Lastly, how should we react
when we find Sheikh Sahab stepping out of the tavern, wiping his mouth with his
turban, heading towards the pulpit?