New Age Islam Edit Bureau
18 March 2017
Hypocrisy as Art Form
By Babar Sattar
The Numbers Game
By Irfan Husain
By Mohammad Jamil
The Two Punjabs
By A.G. Noorani
A Welcome CPEC Benefit
By Abbas Nasir
Sowing the Seeds of Change
By Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif
By Dr Ziauddin
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
March 18, 2017
Our defence minister tells us that Husain
Haqqani has threatened our national security once again, this time by writing
an opinion piece in the Washington Post. The bit that has patriots riled up is
Haqqani’s disclosure that the Obama Administration wished to place intelligence
assets in Pakistan to help track Osama bin Laden and that the Zardari
government granted the request, and his assertion that the assets so placed
might have been invaluable in helping US Navy Seals conduct the operation in
Abbottabad without Pakistan’s knowledge.
Implicit in Haqqani’s disclosures and
assertions in the piece is that Musharraf, towards the end, was seen by the US
as running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. The Zardari government,
on the contrary, was serious about helping the US fight terror and achieve its
objectives in Afghanistan. Due to the relationship between the civilian
government and the US Administration, which Haqqani helped develop, Pakistan
secured the Kerry-Lugar funding and in turn facilitated the US in finding Osama
without the support of our military.
The real problem with the piece is the
larger suggestion that can be gleaned: that our military sympathised with the
Taliban and Islamist militants and was not a trustworthy ally when the fight
against terror was focused on these groups; and the Obama Administration didn’t
coordinate the Abbottabad operation with our military out of the fear that the
information might be leaked and used to help Osama escape. And that is why the
role of US assets deployed on the ground in Pakistan was invaluable.
Osama being found, captured and killed in
Pakistan was a perilous moment for us. The choice for the state was to accept
either incompetence or complicity. We settled for the former. Our best
explanation to the world was that lapses happen even in the presence of the
best intelligence agencies. We presented 9/11 as an example. But the suspicion
that there might have been a combination of incompetence at the top and
complicity at some level hasn’t vanished entirely. In other words, that the
world isn’t sure that our state doesn’t hobnob with non-state outfits.
That is the charge India makes against us.
And that is the allegation Afghanistan is also levelling. The campaign to have
Pakistan declared a terror state is rooted in the assertion that Pakistan uses
non-state actors to pursue its security goals in the region. At a time when the
new Trump Administration is in the process of formulating a South Asia policy
and how to pursue US objectives in Afghanistan, Haqqani has reminded Washington
of its past suspicion. That is what is wrong with the Haqqani piece.
But our reaction to Haqqani’s piece also
highlights what is wrong with Pakistan. We are never in the mood to face facts.
We would rather distort them. We have transformed distortion of history,
deliberate misinformation and lies into an art form. And we keep assuring ourselves that if we
can manage to weave a justificatory narrative that we find plausible and there
are no ‘traitors’ like Haqqani poking holes in it, the rest of the world would
also believe it.
And two, we believe it is okay to use
loyalty to state and religious purity as leashes to stir up public sentiment
and then use heightened public emotion as a source of power and leverage to
achieve tactual gains – ie generate leverage in institutional turf wars or in
negotiations with foreign states. We do so oblivious to the fact that it is
easier to provoke public resentment than to quell it. And that provoking public
sentiment and encouraging xenophobia and bigotry polarises society and prevents
us from building consensus over the way forward for our polity.
Why leash-up hatred against the US every
now and then and patronise rightwing rallies chanting “Amreeka ka jo yaar hai,
ghaddar hai” (America’s friend is a traitor)? Starting from Liaquat Ali Khan,
to Seato/Cento, to Ayub’s ‘Friends not Masters’, to Zia’s embrace of Uncle Sam,
to Musharraf’s enlightened moderation, and including almost all civilian
governments in between, hasn’t it been Pakistan’s consistent policy that
staying on the right side of the US is in our best interest? If the US is seen
as an ally we must do business with, why poison public opinion?
If Ayub did a swell job securing Western
funding for mega-projects and hitching Pakistan to the US wagon during the cold
war, if Musharraf committed no crime leasing out air bases to the US (we found
out about that when Senator Feinstein expressed surprise at Pakistan’s
opposition to drones, which she thought flew from Pakistan), what crime did the
PPP commit when allowing US intelligence personnel to track Osama’s whereabouts
in Pakistan? Unless we wished to hide Osama, why would we obstruct US efforts
aimed at sniffing him out?
Was our state fuming after the Abbottabad
operation because a declared ally breached our sovereignty and embarrassed us
before the world? Or because we didn’t want Osama to be found – or at least not
found unless we wanted him to be found? Do Haqqani’s words and actions
cultivate an atmosphere of rancour and distrust between the US and Pakistan or
merely expose it? When we declare Haqqani a traitor or punish Shakeel Afridi we
unwittingly confuse the world and our own people regarding the side we are
rooting for in the fight against terror.
Pakistan has a terror problem. It’s not
just that terrorists hide amongst us due to broken borders or a dysfunctional
governance system or that the problem would vanish if our enemies stopped
paying mercenaries to blow themselves up. The real sanctuary for terrorists in
Pakistan is a segment of public opinion that sympathises with them and their
worldview. The sympathisers might disagree with the means used by terrorists,
but deep down they support those who have declared war in the name of Islam
against all infidels and against bad Muslims who side with the infidels.
The fact that Muslims in Muslim-majority
states are prime victims of our faith-inspired terrorists becomes an irrelevant
detail for sympathisers. In this environment, an equivocal state narrative that
distinguishes between terrorists on the basis of their targets and seems to
implicitly endorse the view that it is okay for some within a Muslim majority
state to define what a good Muslim is and force others to measure up to such
definition is manna for the terror narrative. Such equivocation encourages
vigilantism and culminates into terror.
A decade ago, Lal Masjid was a den of
terrorists that had to be cleansed through a military operation in which
several SSG officers lost their lives. Today, Lal Masjid is leading the move
against bloggers who were picked up (reportedly by intelligence agencies) and
later returned after being labelled blasphemers. It is quite inexplicable why
blasphemy should be a major problem in a country where 96 percent people
identify themselves as Muslims and minorities are too vulnerable to
deliberately try and offend the religious sensibilities of the majority.
But when little-known social media
activists who are critical of state policies go missing and are later released
after being branded blasphemers through a whispering campaign and Lal Masjid
folks show up in court with ‘evidence’ of blasphemy (that no one else has seen
or verified) demanding their prosecution, two things happen. One, fear spreads
even among right thinking citizens that they can be framed for this most heinous
crime if they fall on the wrong side of the state. And two, people wonder if
the state and Lal Masjid are allies working together.
The practice of using patriotism and
religion as part of tactical manoeuvres to win turf wars must end. Let there be
a wider debate on the mistakes we have made in the past, and the corrective
steps required. Self-criticism doesn’t hurt nations and their interests –
self-deceit and bigotry do.
March 18th, 2017
WHO wants to be PM? Not me, for sure. I
keep a mental list of jobs I’d hate to have, and Pakistan’s prime minister — or
all-powerful dictator, for that matter — is at the very top.
Consider: we are a country of 200 million
people mired in ignorance and poverty; the infrastructure is stretched beyond
breaking point; we are bedevilled with internal and external problems, mostly
of our own making; and we define ourselves more by sectarian and ethnic markers
than we do as Pakistanis.
So who would wish to run this circus?
Plenty of people, apparently. As though we didn’t have enough internal
divisions already, Asfandyar Wali Khan, leader of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa-based
Awami National Party, has just written to the prime minister to complain about
the treatment of Pakhtuns living in Punjab.
The background to the alleged racial
profiling of Pakhtuns in Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad is the recent spate of
suicide bombings. According to security forces, the perpetrators were Pakhtuns
of Pakistani or Afghan origin, and the Jamaat-ul Ahrar — the group that has
claimed responsibility — is based in Afghanistan.
In retaliation, Pakistan has closed border
crossings, and launched a dragnet aimed at Pakhtun housing colonies in Karachi,
Lahore and Islamabad.
Who Would Wish To Run This Circus?
Earlier, in the wake of the horrific attack
on the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014, many Afghan refugees were pushed
out. Apart from waking dormant separatist tendencies, these moves also threaten
already fraying ties with our north-western neighbour.
As it is, our national identity is a
fragile thing. Some 45 years ago, it was undone by Bengali resolve to forge a
separate destiny. In the mid-1970s, it was tested by Baloch separatism that has
resurfaced in recent years. Jeeay Sindh was another potent voice, and the MQM
once clamoured loudly for autonomy verging on independence.
Many of these forces appear to be stirring
again after being prodded by a fear of the results of the long-delayed census.
They have good reason for concern, as the 2017 census will overturn many
assumptions about demography and power.
Consider its implications for Sindh:
between the census of 1981 and 1998, figures show that the percentage of the
province’s Urdu-speaking population fell from 24.1pc to 21pc, while the number
of Sindhis rose from 55.7pc to 59pc in the same period. Over the last 19 years,
many Pakhtuns, Punjabis and Baloch have migrated to urban Sindh for economic
and security reasons.
This migration, together with lower birth
rates among Mohajirs, could translate into fewer parliamentary seats for the
MQM, and alter the power dynamics of the province. In Balochistan, there are
concerns that there has been a steady increase in the number of Afghans in the
northern part of the province. Many reportedly obtained Pakistani identity
cards, thus being eligible to be registered as citizens in the census. This has
alarmed the Baloch as the new numbers would call for a redrawing of the
electoral map of the province.
Punjab also has reason to be concerned by
the census. Rapid urbanisation will result in less rural seats and, thus,
reduced clout for the established feudal families that have called the shots
for years. And higher birth rates in the smaller provinces will reduce Punjab’s
lion’s share of the country’s resources and civil service jobs. A rise in
numbers in southern Punjab might well revive the demand for a Seraiki province.
The census will cause changes in the
allocation of resources as well as parliamentary seats, so there will be
winners and losers. And, as we know all too well, there are few good losers
when it comes to money and power.
Already, Balochistan has demanded a delay
in the census until the Afghans in the province leave. But if we wait for this
to happen we might have to leave it till the next century. Traditionally, there
has always been a significant Afghan presence in both Balochistan and KP, and
since 9/11 it is believed to have grown considerably.
In most countries, a census is seen as a
routine administrative exercise held periodically. But in Pakistan, it becomes
a contentious struggle for power carried out to further certain interests in
the eyes of those directly affected. This is why the army has been deployed in
large numbers to ensure security for the enumerators.
The MQM sees the census as a weapon being
used to cut the party down to size. The Baloch view it as an instrument to make
them a minority in their own province. For feudal landlords, the whole exercise
is a means to deprive them of their traditional power.
Given these apprehensions, we can expect
howls of protests and accusations of foul play. After all, if politicians don’t
accept elections as being fair, why would they endorse census findings? See why
I don’t want to be the PM?
SINCE Hussain Haqqani’s article has been
published in the Washington Post on March 10, a war of words has started
between the PML-N and PPP leaders. They are blaming each other for having
connection with Hussain Haqqani, what they call traitor. They appear to have
woken up from slumber after six years, as he has said nothing new but repeated
what he has been saying in the past. In his article under reference, Hussain
Haqqani stated that he had facilitated presence of CIA operatives in Pakistan
by acting under the authorization of PPP government, which helped track down
Osama bin Ladin without the knowledge of Pakistani military. Anyhow, Minister
for Defence Khawaja Asif on Wednesday proposed formation of a parliamentary
commission to investigate into the claims made by Hussain Haqqani. Leader of
the Opposition in National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah called Hussain Haqqani
He welcomed the proposal for formation of
the commission to probe his allegations, and said that the commission should
also determine who called Osama Bin Ladin to Pakistan in the first place, who
facilitated him, and who asked him for help. Though the commission’s report has
not been made public, but Al Jazeera had published parts of the report. It is
not know how it got the copy of the report. A resolute probe conducted by the
Judicial Commission had concluded that it was authored by Hussain Haqqani
former Pakistan ambassador to the US. The report confirmed that former
Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani was not a trustworthy person and has been
disloyal to the state. The sealed report presented by Memo Commission was read
out to the apex court’s nine-member bench, and it was observed that the former
ambassador was not loyal to the country.
The memo had accused then army chief General
Ashfaq Pervez Kayani of planning to bring down the government in the aftermath
of the raid on Osama bin Laden on May 2. According to the leaked report, the
worst part was the proposal in the memo which read: “The government will allow
the US to propose names of officials to investigate bin Laden’s presence in
Pakistan, facilitate American attempts to target militants like Al Qaeda leader
Ayman al-Zawahri and Taliban chief Mullah Omar, and allow the US greater
oversight of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons”. In his book ‘Pakistan between Mosque
and military’, he had denigrated Pakistan’s institutions and wrote many things
to appease his masters. The book had analysed and traced the origins of the
relationships between Islamist groups and military, thus disparaging Pakistan
and its armed forces. He is shrewd and canny, and could do anything to appease
Anyhow, during Haqqani’s tenure as an
ambassador approximately 3000 visas were issued to US officials/diplomats by
Pakistan’s embassy in Washington between 14th July and December 31, 2010. Prior
to authorization of Ambassador Haqqani by the Prime Minister on July 14, 2010,
all visas to US diplomats used to be issued after approval from Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and also after clearance from security agencies. However, visas
were issued to dubious US officials arbitrarily, who were suspected of being
involved in espionage and other anti-state activities in Pakistan.
Haqqani was compulsive detractor of
Pakistan and its institutions; yet he was pampered by the two main political
parties of Pakistan. During an interview to NDTV on September 26, 2015, he
‘advised’ Pakistan to stop competing with India; and that Kashmir issue should
not be linked with other issues. Having said that, a brief summary of Hussain
Haqqani’s changing loyalties and changing goalposts would be appropriate to
read his mind. Hussain Haqqani was once correspondent for Far Eastern Economic
Review; then he was media advisor to Punjab Chief Minister Nawaz Sharif when
Benazir Bhutto was Prime Minister of Pakistan during her first stint in
1988-1990. He had switched to serve caretaker Prime Minister Ghulam Mustafa
Jatoi in 1990, and then switched back again to serve Nawaz Sharif when he was
elected Prime Minister. He stooped so low as to use vulgar language for Bhutto
family’s women folk.
In 1992, he was sent to Sri Lanka as
Pakistan’s High Commissioner showing disregard to the merit. On the eve of
Nawaz Sharif’s dismissal by the then president under 58-2(B) on 18 April 1993,
he jumped out of the sinking ship and joined President Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s
bandwagon. Immediately, he was rewarded and made special assistant to the
caretaker Prime Minister Mir Balakh Sher Mazari with the rank of Minister of
State. He was a turncoat having no parallel in at least Pakistan’s history.
There is a perception that during his stint as Ambassador to the US he did not
care for the prime minister and president of Pakistan. It was unfortunate that
Hussain Haqqani was appointed as an ambassador to the US when everybody knew
about his dubious character, and especially his views in his book titled
‘Pakistan between mosque and military’.
It was CIA that had trained Afghan Jihadis,
and after the Soviet forces were pushed out, the US left the region in a lurch.
Anyhow, the firm positions that the Pakistan military leadership took on
certain issues vis-à-vis Kerry-Lugar Law, Raymond Davis episode and
particularly resistance to a military operation in North Waziristan, had put
Washington in a huff, as it expected unarguably not defiance but obedience from
Pakistan’s every state arm. The then chief of army Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani
and ISI chief Ahmed Shuja Pasha had the spine to say ‘No’ to CIA’s dictates,
which was the reason that the CIA had gone berserk, and strived every nerve to
denigrate Pakistan’s military and premier intelligence agency. Attack on army
headquarters in Rawalpindi and Mehran Base were part of the plan to demoralize
military and to lower the prestige of armed forces in the eyes of people of
LAST month, the government of Indian Punjab
asked the central government to negotiate with Pakistan to allow the
transportation of exports through Pakistan’s land routes. It said this would
also improve India’s trade with the Commonwealth of States countries.
What is far more significant is that Punjab
also wants the centre to invite it to future trade meetings with Pakistan. The
centre conceded that this issue would be taken up when trade and economic
cooperation are next discussed following a resumption of dialogue.
Fortunately, Amrinder Singh has returned to
power as chief minister of Punjab. In his previous tenure, he gave ample
evidence of a commitment to good relations with Pakistan. Not very long ago,
the chief ministers of both Punjabs met to discuss matters of common interest.
Foreign affairs is a subject of the union
under India’s constitution and, indeed, of all countries. But there has been a
significant shift towards giving the states some voice on the conduct of
foreign affairs, especially on matters that directly impinge on their interests
and their people’s feelings.
The centre needs to loosen its grip on the
But Article 253 of the constitution enables
the centre to ride roughshod on the states’ rights when it implements not only
a treaty but also a decision at an international conference. It states:
“Notwithstanding anything in the foregoing provisions of this chapter [on
centre-state relations in the legislative sphere], Parliament has power to make
any law for the whole or any part of the territory of India for implementing
any treaty, agreement or convention with any other country or countries or any
decision made at any international conference, association or other body.” If
the government concludes an international convention on, say, health,
parliament will have the power to make any law to implement it, despite the
fact that the subject falls in the state list.
In the last nearly 70 years, the number of
such international ‘bodies’ has grown significantly. Article 253 will cover an
international sports ‘body’ too. But the political realities since have also
altered radically. From 1990 to 2014, India’s central government was propped up
by regional parties. Political realities affected the play of Article 253 in
another respect as well.
Even when Rajiv Gandhi commanded a massive
majority in the Lok Sabha, his policy on Sri Lanka was hostage to the wishes of
the Tamil Nadu government. It was the West Bengal’s chief minister Jyoti Basu’s
trip to Dhaka that enabled India to settle the dispute on the sharing of the
waters of the Ganges with Bangladesh. His stature ensured acceptance of the
agreement in his own state while also persuading the leaders of Bangladesh to
In June 1948, the Indian government offered
the nizam of Hyderabad a draft ‘heads of agreement’ on defence, foreign affairs
and communications, which were reserved for the Indian government. Paragraph 7
added a qualification: “Hyderabad will, however, have freedom to establish
trade agencies in order to build up commercial, fiscal, and economic relations
with other countries; but these agencies will work under the general
supervision of, and in the closest cooperation with the Government of India.
Hyderabad will not have any political relations with any country.” If that was
appropriate for Hyderabad in 1948, it is even more so for the states of India’s
union in 2017.
It is not necessary to amend the
constitution to confer on the states a consultative status on foreign affairs
when their own interests are directly involved. Procedures can be devised by
the centre in consultation with the states and the document can be endorsed by
a joint resolution of both houses of parliament. There is a precedent for this.
In the wake of the constitutional crisis
that engulfed Australia when governor-general Sir John Kerr dismissed prime
minister Gough Whitlam from office in 1976, a series of constitutional
conventions were held on a wide range of subjects, including Canberra’s
treaty-power. In May 1996, in a detailed statement to parliament, then foreign
minister Alexander Downer announced the government’s decision on parliamentary
scrutiny of treaties and consultation with the states. Treaties will, as a
rule, be tabled in parliament “at least 15 sitting days before the government
takes binding action”. Simultaneously, a ‘national interest analysis’ would
also be tabled to set out reasons for ratifying the treaty. Two new bodies
would be set up: a joint parliamentary committee on treaties and a ‘treaties
council’, which had been rejected earlier.
An agreed parliamentary resolution can give
the states greater say on foreign affairs when their interests are involved and
also recognise the right of the chief minister to engage with foreign
governments on economic affairs, provided that the centre is kept in the
picture. They do that already — but the practice should receive formal
GIVEN its magnitude, the China-Pakistan
Economic Corridor (CPEC) remains the subject of considerable debate in the
country, with several experts weighing in with their figures of how much the
$50 billion-plus projects are going to eventually cost Islamabad.
Over a 30-year repayment period, these
figures, which do not differ wildly from one another, put the cost of CPEC at
around 4.5 to five per cent per year. This means Pakistan will have to repay
the $50bn plus interest at around $3bn to $3.5bn a year for the period.
Experts are right in asking whether the
projected growth in economic activity as a result of CPEC generate enough
national wealth for the country to service and repay annually for 30 years what
seems not an insignificant amount of money, totalling about $90bn.
The Sri Lankan example has also been
pointed out, where a large Chinese investment did not necessarily generate
enough income or revenues for Colombo to successfully service the debt. This
led to erosion of ownership of key assets such as a seaport and loss of
‘sovereignty’ over some 15,000 acres (6,070 hectares) of land earmarked for an
The benefits of this investment can only be
accurately assessed if its impact on terrorism can be calculated.
Apart from raising the matter of annual
cost, my Dawn colleague Khurram Husain, with an enviable grasp over economic
and business issues, has also highlighted the matter of ‘exclusive’ economic
zones for Chinese companies along the corridor and asked whether such
exclusivity is desirable from the Pakistani point of view.
Social media has taken this debate to a
different level altogether, where some analysts have asked if the large sums to
be repatriated mean that China may come to represent in Pakistan in the 21st
century what the East India Company was to India in the 19th.
Whether this argument is valid or alarmist
I will leave to the reader. What I do wish to say is that there can be no
denying that Pakistan, with its huge defence and debt-servicing allocation, has
very little left over for infrastructure development.
And it is also not rocket science to say
that an economy can only grow to a point with poor or obsolete and creaky
infrastructure in this day and age, and no more. Nawaz Sharif critics may
deride the prime minister for being obsessed with building multi-lanes
motorways. But they will also acknowledge that even with the major ports in the
country, the road and rail infrastructure along the north-south axis exists
more or less in a time capsule.
This may have been expanded but nowhere
near the needs of a country with a population of 200 million. One need only
drive from Karachi to Peshawar, for example, or take a train to understand how
little has been done in any real way since the colonial plunderers left over 70
Also important is to examine how many
investors were prepared to sink in the required investment of the magnitude
that the Chinese are pledging. China’s imperative for doing so is clear as its
western part lags in the pace of development attained by the rest, particularly
CPEC provides western China with a quick
connection, access to the rest of the world via Pakistan and, therefore, it is
sinking in what from Islamabad’s perspective is an unimaginably huge
However, for any cost-benefit analysis of
this investment to be all-encompassing and meaningful it needs to include
factors generally excluded from such analyses. The benefits of this investment
can only be accurately assessed if its impact on religious militancy, even
terrorism, can be calculated.
The Chinese have long been concerned with
the extremist Islamic movement in the western reaches of the People’s Republic
and also understand where some of its own militants find common cause, go and
train themselves only to return and cause unrest.
Sources say the Chinese leadership has
repeatedly raised this issue with both civilian and military leaders in
Pakistan. Although they have found sympathetic ears, they also realise that
this is one area where the civilians’ ability to deliver is very limited.
Against the backdrop of newly shaping
realities in the region, where India sees itself as equal to China regionally
(of course with Washington’s encouragement), the Chinese leadership is moving
closer to Pakistan, particularly in military cooperation.
As western sources of armaments appear more
and more challenging and expensive for Pakistan, its reliance on China is
increasing. Latest reports in the media suggest a deeper commitment between the
two to enhanced defence production, among other areas.
Who would have been surprised to see the
photo of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa meeting his counterparts
in the People’s Liberation Army high command? But the fact that he also met the
foreign minister for face-to-face talks is significant.
One can (and with justification) just focus
again on the civil-military balance in the country’s power structure, or
perhaps look at a wider, global perspective and its impact on us. To me, the
only institution in the country capable of taking religious extremism and
terrorism head-on is the army.
After all, for years and years, GHQ has
nurtured and used such elements to project its power beyond our borders and
considered them as a second line of defence for our nuclear-armed country. In
the process we have all witnessed the disaster that has unfolded.
If it takes Chinese persuasion to convince
our key decision-makers that it may have been a bad idea all along and, in any
case, that it is definitely not viable any longer, it would be a huge, possibly
incalculable, benefit of CPEC. Who would not welcome it?
It was an amazing afternoon. I stood next
to the young girls of my province as they recounted their extraordinary stories
of relentless struggles and shared their passion for knowledge despite the
grave hurdles posed by poverty and severe financial constraints. I was again
reminded of the class divide that characterises our country today as well as
the cruelty this system has imposed on its people.
The level of criticism attracted by
pro-poor welfare projects under the pretext of one shiny jargon or another
smart explanation is ever growing. The line between the haves and have-nots
could not be deeper. This thought never leaves me even for a second.
It is extremely unfortunate for a country,
which came into existence on the principles of the equality of opportunity and
growth for all of its citizens without any discrimination, to be held hostage
by the so-called elites. Even worse is their willingness to go to any extent to
protect their vested interests without realising the needs of their less
My interaction with these brilliant young
girls has left me even more motivated in countering this narrative and ardent
in furthering my resolve and agenda to nurture equality across my province. I
am convinced that a system that allows 10 percent of the elite to ride a
roughshod over the 90 percent of the population cannot sustain itself for long.
Establishing an egalitarian society that takes care of its less fortunate lot
is our noble goal.
If the doors of impending revolution have
to be shut, then it is about time we abolish the culture of patronage,
rent-seeking and injustice that is so rampant and deep-rooted in our country.
The persistent feelings of deprivation among the poverty-stricken youth are a
ticking bomb that can explode if well-to-do sections of our society fail to
acknowledge that our youth need us and we are running out of time. If our elite
support me in pouring a balm on the wounds of the people who have been
exploited for so long, then we can hope to integrate them into the mainstream.
In doing so, nothing is a greater equaliser
than an investment in education – and that too in the education of girls.
Islam, our great religion, places utmost emphasis on education – especially the
education of women. Wherever Islam ordains its followers to acquire knowledge,
it does not discriminate between man and woman. It is evident from the Holy
Quran and Hadiths that the acquisition of knowledge is obligatory for women in
the same way as it is for men. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was a great advocate of
providing girls with education and training and making special arrangements in
As I sat down with hundreds of girl
students in Aiwan-e-Iqbal Complex to launch the Khadim-e-Punjab Zevar-e-Taleem
Programme and listened to their extraordinary stories, I could not help but
wonder about the unparalleled talent that our youth is blessed with which, if
tapped through the right incentives and enabling environment, can drive our
Zevar-e-Taleem is a game-changing
initiative by virtue of its potential impact in improving the literacy rate
among girls as well as lifting the socio-economic status of their households
and families. The Punjab government will provide resources to the tune of Rs6
billion per annum for this purpose and 460,000 female students will benefit
from this revolutionary initiative.
Under this programme – that provides
stipends to girls at secondary school – the monthly stipend of Rs200 per
student has been increased to Rs1,000 per student. This programme has been
launched in 16 districts of Punjab that are lagging behind on the educational
indicators for girl child education.
I can confidently say that the selection
process of these students and the distribution of stipends are error-free. It
is robustly developed through the integration of information technology tools,
multiple data checks and is regularly synchronised with the school monitoring
data. This process is fully transparent and completely based on merit.
The Zevar-e-Taleem programme seeks to
increase the enrolment of female students and improve their retention rate
through two necessary enablers: catering to the out-of-pocket expenses of girl
students and providing better nutrition to these students. These are supported
by empirical research and findings.
This programme will help us in move towards
the actual fulfilment of the vision of our founding father. It will lay the
foundation-stone of a society that is moderate, humane, economically prosperous
and morally upright. In recent history, the creation of Pakistan over the short
span of seven years is a living tribute to the highly important role and
amazing struggle waged by our women to transform Iqbal’s dream into reality
under the inspiring leadership of Quaid-e-Azam.
I firmly believe that if inspiring and
brave women such as Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, Begum Shahnawaz, Salma Tassaduq
Hussain and Begum Liaquat Ali Khan had not been in the forefront of freedom
struggle, the dream of Pakistan would have remained a dream. My country has
witnessed various women in the leading roles of legislators, doctors, jurists,
preachers, educationists, ambassadors, businesswomen and entrepreneurs.
For our society to optimally unlock its
potential and fulfil its purpose, girls and women must come forward. To make
this possible, their brothers, husbands and fathers must support them, not as a
matter of privilege but as a right. It is time that we rise above stereotypes
and expose every person and ideology that opposes the education of girls and
encourages miscreants to bombs girls schools. We have to stand guard over the
pristine teachings of our great religion about the education of girls.
Investing in the education of girls at the
primary and secondary level entails huge future dividends as women today
constitute more than half of our country’s population. Investing in their
empowerment involves investing in the well-being of our society.
Preparing them to take on the challenges of
tomorrow and supporting them to play an effective role in the socio-economic
development of our country is our collective responsibility. The Zevar-e-Taleem
drive is a national movement. Empowerment through education provides the
bulwark against terrorism, extremism, ignorance and under-development.
The seeds of a lasting change are being
sown. Let us make sure that it grows into a fruit-bearing tree. The launch of a
stipend programme to promote the education of girls is a significant step in
this direction. Now we have to build on the initiative and expand its reach to
enable more girls from the remaining districts to benefit from this
I would like to end this article with an
African proverb: “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you
educate a woman, you educate a nation.”
Deciding the future status of Fata took a
new turn when JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman demanded that the opinion of
the people of the tribal belt must be sought in this matter.
This is quite important because the people
of Fata are the real stakeholders and their opinion should be the deciding
factor. Any opinion about the matter that emanates from other parts of the
country has little value as compared with the views of Fata’s people.
A referendum is one of the main instruments
to seek public opinion on an issue. In Pakistan, a few leaders rejected the
proposal of a referendum on Fata’s fate on the grounds that such instruments
have a tainted history in our country. These reservations are justifiable. But
when rigging allegations were hurled against a majority of national elections,
did we stop holding elections? There is a process of continuous reforms in the
electoral process. In a similar vein, a referendum in Fata can be held in an
open, organised and transparent manner.
An argument against holding a referendum is
that other areas of provinces – such as Hazara or southern Punjab – will also
demand a referendum. There are many ways to determine the opinion of people.
Opinion polls and surveys can be conducted by a respectable organisation to
determine the opinions of people through a representative sample.
Fata has an area of 27,220 square kilometres
of area. It has an estimated population of between five to 10 million people.
It is strategically located and six out of seven tribal agencies are situated
along the border of Afghanistan. Fata has hundreds of schools and dozens of
colleges. Its mineral resources have not been explored. There is a clear-cut
process prescribed in the constitution of Pakistan to deal with this and
therefore any referendum in Fata cannot be used as a precedent.
One argument that has been put forward in
support of Fata’s merger with KP is that members of the National Assembly who
belong to the tribal belt are in favour of the merger. In the 2013 elections,
Fata had an extremely low voter turnout and the participation of women remained
limited. Moreover, these elections were not held by giving a mandate to Fata
MNAs to decide the future status of the tribal belt.
The third option is that a grand tribal
jirga should decide this issue. Historically, a jirga is an integral part of
Pakhtun culture whereby disputes are settled. The credibility of a jirga
depends on the honesty and integrity of jirga members. Due to the decline in
values, there are reservations on the decision of a jirga. In a male-dominated
society, a disputing party often has a woman from their tribe married to man from
the opposing party to settle disputes. In the tribal areas, the decisions of a
jirga are influenced by the political agents and no member of a jirga can go
against the PA if he has to survive in the area.
The future status of Fata should be decided
in a peaceful manner and not through the threat of dharnas. Maulana Fazlur
Rehman has a strong influence in certain districts of KP and South and North
Waziristan. He also has a large following among madressah students.
‘Mainstreaming’ Fata is not possible only through a merger. If people think
that a merger will stop terrorism, they should consider the example of Swat
which witnessed a terrorist uprising twice even though it is in the settled
areas of KP.
A few political leaders even think that the
transitional period of five years for the merger is unnecessary and the tribal
belt should be merged with immediate effect. Even if there is a consensus on
the merger, different systems operate in both KP and Fata. This could result in
a series of differences that will take a long time to reconcile.
The merger of East and West Germany and
Hong Kong and Mainland China serve as useful examples. Hong Kong still enjoys a
special status in China even though it operates under a democratic system that
is fundamentally different from the latter.
The future status of Fata must be decided
by the main and primary stakeholders: the people who are living in the region.
The decision must be taken in a peaceful manner. The people of Fata should be
responsible for their destiny and their resources. This will put an end to the
controversy once and for all. Any turmoil in this strategically sensitive
region is not in the interest of the country.