New Age Islam Edit Bureau
28 March 2018
Recipe for a National Disaster
By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Tampering With a Taboo
By Muhammad Atif Ilyas
CPEC, Pakistan and Global Value Chains
By Hasaan Khawar
Hawk Or Cuckoo?
By Mahir Ali
What Is It Like To Be A Child In Pakistan?
By Siraj Shawa
Culture Of Intolerance In Higher Institutes Of Learning
By Aisha Anees Malik
Our Colonial Institutions
By Dr Farid A Malik
Reconstructing the Power Troika
By Mohsin Raza Malik
Messy Run-Up to the Elections
By Zahid Hussain
The Trump House
By Harlan Ullman
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
March 28, 2018
It will be a tremendous achievement in 70 years to complete a full decade of democracy in a few months’ time notwithstanding confusion getting worst confounded by the powers that be who perhaps need bell, book and candle treatment to exorcise them of their hideous doctrinarian ambitions.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi’s statement that there would be no judicial or martial law, elections would be held as scheduled and power transferred to the next elected government following his half an hour meeting with American Vice President Pence in Washington — means something more than meets the eye and is definitely reassuring.
CJP Mr Justice Saqib Nisar too has clearly snubbed the suggestion by MNA Sheikh Rasheed. Its time Imran Khan’s puts tape on his Quixotic heavy weight Sancho Panza. National Assembly Speaker Sardar Ayaz Sadiq who was here in London on March 23 on the occasion of Pakistan’s National Day function too was exhuming confidence with pride on a great decade of democracy.
The controversial Bajwa Doctrine has ignited a nationwide debate. It has caused very deep simmering in the society and fissiparous forces take it as a golden opportunity to revive their irredentist ambitions that had been buried by the resolution of the tricky issue of provincial autonomy in 1973 constitution and 18th Amendment.
If one reads Bajwa Doctrine along with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s repeated reiterations that army does not pose any threat to democracy — notwithstanding one’s lurking fears in the current atmosphere of eerie lull before the storm, dispelling of doom and gloom when elections are around the corner — is just the need of the hour.
One must remember that perceptions are more lethal than reality. I would rather consider GQJB’s pledge as credible that no harm would come to democracy from the army and that he would retire on the completion of his tenure. Not only that, his assurance that army as an institution would stand by the judiciary and that it would ensure its decisions are implemented — is timely to blunt the vicious volleys of attack on the apex judiciary and judges by the PMLN goons masquerading as ministers who have a notorious reputation of ransacking the Supreme Court in 1998, manhandling the then late Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and bankrolling a judicial coup by the Sharif brothers.
In democracy elections are means to an end for the dispensation of good governance within the parameters of the Constitution, rule of law and the exercise of sovereignty through Parliament. It would require a separate article to clinically analyse Punjabi chauvinist mentality of Prime Minister Abbasi who wants to replace elected Chairman Senate from Balochistan — Senator Sadiq Sanjrani. He is not happy with the defeat of PMLN’s nominees for both Chairman and Deputy Chairman.
Coming back to Bajwa Doctrine when interpreted in its true colours, it is something as Raza Rumi said in his last week’s column. ‘The Bajwa Doctrine therefore is a continuation of the past and in that sense is neither new nor unexpected. Its prognosis is almost similar to what the generals have said in the past. Commitment to a clean and ‘real’ democracy is not new. And the quest for an economically strong and centralised state is also a perennial theme in the military worldview.’
To add more to RR’s observation, I would say that it means a state with strong centre as was designed in Ayub Khan’s presidential system. In other words, it was a blue-print for a garrison state that developed most under General Ziaul Haq, followed by General Pervez Musharraf. While the smaller provinces have always opposed strong Centre, Punjab in it has the cake and eats it too. That’s the reason disqualified former Prime Minister on war-path with the judiciary and the army has expressed his willingness to sit with General Bajwa and discuss with him his doctrine including amendments in the constitution since 18th amendment is considered as bad as 6-points.
Unfortunately, Praetorian mind-set does not have that sort of wisdom that saved Pakistan from further fragmentation after the fall of Dhaka in 1971 especially when both the Pakistan army and the religious bind could not hold the country together. Had it not been for the statesmanship of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who convinced the leaders of the smaller provinces — messrs Khan Wali Khan, Sardar Ghous Bux Bizenjo, Sardar Ataullah Mengal, Mufti Mehmood, Samad Khan Achakzai, Raisanis, Khalil Khattak, Aslam Khattak, Professor Ghafoor Ahmed, Maulana Noorani Mian, Zehris, Jamalis, Magsis, Hazaras and host of others as elected members of the National Assembly — in the need to live together as an integrated whole by resolving the thorny issue of provincial autonomy and equitable distribution of resources. It was decided in 1973 Constitution that the Concurrent list would be transferred to provinces in 1983. Gen Zia did not as he though strong centre was Islamic.
The resolution of the quantum of autonomy issue was the only way to keep the four provinces together. Army was totally decimated by its humiliating defeat; cream of its fighting force was languishing in Indian PoW camps. In his banquet speech to welcome President Bhutto Russian President Nikolai Podgorny made it clear to Pakistani delegation in early 1972 that “if a similar situation like that of East Pakistan arose once again, the Soviet Union would support the right of self-determination of the smaller nationalities” — ie Pakhtuns wanting Pakhtunistan, Sindhu Desh and Independent Balochistan. It was Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who convinced the leaders of the smaller provinces that unity in diversity was the only way forward to peace, progress and prosperity. It was he who defied the pressure of some of the top opposition leaders who had advised to defang the army so that it does not ever stage a coup.
Comparing 18th amendment with Six Points of Awami League in the current context is a recipe to national disaster. Army needs funds to carry on the war on terrorism, so does prodigal Punjab leadership. It has to move on with its mega money making projects in the name of development. Both seems to be sleeping in different beds but are having the same dream, that is, finish off only women poverty alleviation scheme acknowledged internationally — Benazir Income Support Scheme.
There could not be a better expose of multi-faceted Punjab centric policies of the government as crudely manifested by the Prime Minister’s Adviser on finance in which he said that financial powers delegated to the provinces under the 18th Amendment should go back to the Centre. Bilawal Bhutto warned of the “conspiracies that are being hatched for the last five years to deprive the provinces of financial powers and transfer them back to the Centre.”
In conclusion one would share Bilawal’s concern about the conspiracy theories seeking dismantling of the 18th amendment. He is absolutely right that the 1973 constitution and 18th Amendment are sine quo non to each other and non-negotiable. “Come hell or high water we will not compromise on our constitution’s integrity, no roll-back and changes in National Finance Commission.”
Two awfully interesting events happened over the course of few days. On the one hand, the whole cricketing world has been shaken with the blatant act of ball tampering by the Australian cricket team, and on the other we awarded someone with a similar record the third-highest civilian honour. This whole piece found its birth in a seemingly innocuous statement I posted on the social media and the reactions my post received over the next few hours. I was hyperlinked to different glories that player achieved over the career of nearly two decades, piling one over the other until it is hard to see the ball biting fiasco. All said and done, but there is something really wrong with us and the way we engage with our national heroes, especially cricketers.
Let us go back to the anathematic Justice Qayyum’s report that put into question the integrity of our most beloved cricketers. In a nutshell, the lesser charismatic got the axe and the more loved were ipso facto released with a paternal pat on the head. Even the juror conceded that he simply is unable to punish those of whom he is a big fan. Not only that, his reluctance was deeply rooted in the potential public outrage and the effect the decision would have had on his ending career. Kudos to him for saving the most iconic cricketers of the ’90s. Proud moment. Clap. Clap.
Our relational dynamics with star cricketers are pretty simple, ie, we are in love. Bumper stickers quote that when you are in love with someone, you tend to ignore the flaws in them and focus only on the positives. We tend to falter in exactly that. We are too short-sighted in our fascination to understand that our personal heroes are national ones. Therefore, their actions have consequences at not only the national but also at the international level. They play more for national pride than for us, which is why they absolutely cannot afford to falter.
Do all of their achievements lose value if they happen to stumble once? Unfortunately, the answer is in the affirmative, because even one black blotch in clear water makes it muddy, and no matter how much more water we pour in, it will still have that one drop of contamination. These are the people who are given responsibility to represent Pakistan. Therefore, they simply cannot afford even an iota of corruption. They are the pick of the lot, best of the country and when they falter, it reflects poorly on the country. We might end up forgiving them, but their names will always resound with the country ‘Pakistan’ internationally which further makes their misdemeanours unforgiveable.
I am all for giving someone a second chance but things get dire and stakes a lot higher when it is the matter of the green flag and its prestige. I do not vouch for the absolute refusal in welcoming the rehabilitants but we should at least practise reasonable reluctance that our flag deserves. And it is a hard ask, especially when a ball biter is awarded the third-highest civilian honour. What is even more unfortunate is that the charismatic ball biter now stands with the likes of highest Test runs scorer and the most successful Test captain of Pakistan. It is so unfair to the cricketers like the latter.
I know, I will be slammed left, right and centre for this article. Statistics will be quoted, achievements will be trumpeted, and being a Pakistani and a cricket fan, I will be able to understand the outrage. But I will always choose not winning a World Cup or even tens of matches over my flag being humiliated internationally.
Discussions on CPEC seem to have rightly moved from infrastructure to industrial development and economic cooperation. That is where CPEC can bring real dividends for Pakistan — a country with a relatively simple industrial base, declining exports and low economic complexity. During the last 13 years, Pakistan’s industrial base did not evolve much and consequently the economic complexity ranking merely moved by four positions, with 88th position in 2003 to 84th in 2016. Pakistan’s share of exports in the global market in the meanwhile declined from 0.16% to 0.13%. China, on the other hand, jumped from 35th to 26th position in economic complexity rankings during the same period, while increasing its share of the world’s exports from 6% to 13%.
So how did China do this? One of the key contributors was China’s leapfrogging on its industrialisation path through participation in global value chains (GVCs). A similar approach may also help Pakistan in defining industrial cooperation under CPEC.
But first it’s important to understand what these GVCs are. With increased globalisation, corporations are outsourcing their production processes more than ever before to locations where they can find best value for money. As a result, an iPhone may be designed in the US but gets its electronic chips from Taiwan, display from South Korea, cameras from Japan and finally gets assembled in China and Brazil before being sold across the globe. These are the so-called global value chains.
While GVCs are helping the multinational corporations to reduce their costs and improve the quality of their products, they are also enabling the participating countries to integrate into global markets without developing the knowhow of the full value chain. GVCs rest on detailed exchange of information, technology and components and deep supplier relationships much beyond the traditional knowledge transfers of the past.
For instance, Toyota is known for improving production systems of its suppliers, invest in their technical capabilities and undertake joint improvement activities, while rewarding them for good performance through orders for more components. Consequently, the offshore companies participating in GVCs acquire new technologies and skills resulting in improved processes, upgrading the product offering or even acquiring new functions altogether.
These could then have spill over effects for other firms in the country, enabling developing economies to move up the technology ladder from exporting raw materials to greater value addition and increased sophistication. Economists argue that such an approach enables countries with lower wages to industrialise much more rapidly than was previously possible.
This is exemplified by China’s experience, which successfully used its low-cost labour to partner with leading international corporations, selling to consumers around the world and in the process improved its own technological base and economic sophistication and becoming the world’s largest exporter.
In 2016, Pakistan’s overall trade was merely 25% of its GDP, as compared to the world’s average of 56%, South Asian average of 39%, 40% for India and 38% for Bangladesh. Looking at Pakistan’s export composition by production stage, raw material exports claimed 9% share in total exports in 2016, whereas intermediate goods claimed only 27%. The rest of 60% went to consumer products and a meagre 3% to capital goods. Although specific GVC participation data is not available for Pakistan, the trade-to-GDP ratio and current export composition depict low levels of trade openness and globalisation, resulting in low GVC participation.
Let’s look at the case of Pakistan’s auto parts industry. The car manufacturing industry is universally structured across GVCs, where automakers rely on a vast network of suppliers. The ‘Tier 1’ suppliers themselves are typically massive firms with global presence, such as Denso and Saint Gobin, with hundreds of thousands of employees, thousands of registered patents and operations across various countries. A recent research study undertaken by IDEAS highlight that Pakistani auto part manufactures, despite having significant exports, still lie on the periphery of this vast GVC, being secondary contractors to these Tier 1 suppliers.
So how can Pakistan increase its GVC participation and benefit from CPEC? Literature shows that primary drivers of GVC participation of a country include its market size, overall development, industrial structure and location. Pakistan scores quite well in terms of market size being the world’s fifth-largest country and also in terms of location, being next door neighbour to China, which is the world’s largest exporter, biggest production hub and one of the largest markets. CPEC is expected to further improve connectivity with China, enhancing this advantage. Accessing even part of the value chain of Chinese products presents a large opportunity for Pakistani manufacturers.
More importantly, however, certain policy levers can play an instrumental role in encouraging GVC participation. These include targeted trade policy, openness to the FDI, low cost to import, efficient trade and logistics infrastructure and facilitation, intellectual property protection and a friendly business environment.
While it may be difficult to immediately remove distortions in all these areas, the planned Special Economic Zones under CPEC can play a great role to create a micro-investment climate enabling GVC participation for local firms, supported through targeted investment policies.
The starting point should be integration with regional value chains, where Pakistan can benefit from lower costs of physical transportation. South Asia is one of the least integrated regions within Asia (Asian Development Bank’s Asian Economic Integration Report 2017) with inadequate infrastructure as a major constraint. With CPEC, however, this can change. The infrastructure in Pakistan is getting a major boost and now there is a need to make use of this opportunity to move towards greater economic integration and trade, not only across north-south corridor but also gradually moving east and west by better economic and trade ties with India and Iran.
IT may have been purely coincidental that Donald Trump picked the week of the 15th anniversary of the US-led aggression against Iraq to name one of the most reckless and unrepentant advocates of that war as his next national security adviser.
But, even though the unforgivably irresponsible havoc unleashed in the Middle East in 2003 has yet to run its course, the return of John Bolton to the portals of power is extremely alarming on other fronts — namely Iran and North Korea.
In both cases, Bolton, one of the most odious elements of the George W. Bush administration — which, lest we forget, had more than its fair share of untethered hawks, from Dick Cheney to Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz — has unequivocally advocated “pre-emptive” bombardment as an alternative to diplomacy.
Colin Powell, Bush’s initial secretary of state, considered Bolton a spy for vice president Cheney in the State Department. And Bush, in picking arguably the most dedicated opponent of the United Nations in his team as the US ambassador to the UN, was obliged to resort to a recess appointment, because numerous Republicans in Congress considered Bolton far too right wing to constructively represent his nation at that forum.
Trump toyed with the idea of appointing Bolton as his first secretary of state. He was dissuaded by the knowledge that today’s Republican-dominated Congress, even more extreme in some ways than in the Bush days, would nonetheless be reluctant to endorse an uber-hawk disguised as a cuckoo (or is it the other way around?). He was also, many reports suggest, put off by Bolton’s distinctive moustache.
Appointments to the National Security Council, however, do not require congressional endorsement. When Trump replaced Exxon’s ex-CEO Rex Tillerson with the Christian fundamentalist Tea Party enthusiast Mike Pompeo (whose post at the helm of the CIA is to be filled by Gina Haspel, the Company’s first female director who was closely associated with its torture programme), he indicated that the cabinet he truly, madly, deeply wanted was falling into place.
Bolton, as a replacement for retired general H.R. McMaster (inducted after his predecessor, Michael Flynn, another ex-general, had to be sacked when he was caught out lying to the FBI and the vice president), evidently slots right into the plot. The president does not appreciate advisers who disagree even marginally with his discombobulated worldview.
It remains to be seen who will go next — defence secretary James Mattis, chief of staff John Kelly (both of them also ex-generals), or attorney general Jeff Sessions, who is thoroughly reactionary but earned unrelenting presidential ire by recusing himself from the probe into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia. Or it could be Robert Mueller, the former FBI chief conducting that probe, and apparently also exploring the Trump Organisation’s dubious financial shenanigans.
The biggest danger in the short run, however, is the likelihood that Bolton will bolster the more than a decade-long campaign spearheaded by Israel and Saudi Arabia to mount a military assault against Iran. That would lead to an unprecedented disaster for the region and the world at a number of levels, but there’s no guarantee that America’s Nato partners can dissuade it from going down that path. The road to Tehran, that is, rather than Damascus, is paved with the most dire of intentions. And a degree of ignorance that mocks the Bush administration’s catalogue of insanity.
Bolton and Pompeo could also bury any prospect of a negotiations-based rapprochement with North Korea. In his commentaries in The Wall Street Journal and on Fox News, the only TV channel that Trump routinely heeds, Bolton has made it abundantly clear that he favours a shock-and-awe approach to Pyongyang regardless of what US allies South Korea and Japan might feel about the possible consequences.
In the case of Palestine, he favours a three-state solution: that is, handing the Gaza Strip to Egypt and the diminishing bits of West Bank that Israel does not covet to Jordan. Is it any surprise that Zionists of the Likudite variety adore Bolton’s brand of insanity?
Many of the neoconservatives who propped up the Bush presidency look askance at Trump’s shenanigans, but Bolton is something of an exception. That does not guarantee he will survive for too long in this revolving-door administration, despite being a symptom of the same disease that the president personifies.
One can only hope, though, that America’s medium-term future is not represented by the likes of Bolton, Trump, Pompeo and the likes of Betsy DeVos and Ben Carson, but will sooner or later fall into the hands of the children who last Saturday eloquently demonstrated their determination for a much less violent nation, and, by extension, a more peaceful world.
Like it or not, our children are going through one of the darkest phases of history. With each passing day, new stories of their plight come forth. From Karachi to Khyber, in every nook and cranny of the country they are encountering horrific challenges of various kinds, while the state and its machinery sleep at the wheel. Actions are only taken against matters which are dragged into the spotlight by the media. The cases left in the dark are forgotten.
The miseries of our children begin inside their mothers’ womb, just after conception. Very few woman follow standard pregnancy diet charts during their pregnancies in Pakistan. Maternal malnutrition is one of our society’s acknowledged intractable problems. Not only does this endanger the life of the mother, it also increases the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes — including fetal growth restriction and stunting in childhood. Moreover, cognitive and motor impairments may also occur as a consequence of this.
Following birth, the story of their agony continues. According to one study, only 38 percent of infants below the age of six are breast fed in this country. About 9.6 million children are denied proper nutrition, leading to undernourishment which results in defective growth. A staggering 44 percent of our children are stunted and are exposed to morbidity and infections.
The situation is made worse by unhealthy and unhygienic living conditions. Owing to unsafe water and pathetic sanitation, many die as a consequence of intestinal diseases. According to UNICEF, Pakistan has one of the highest morbidity rates for newborns. One in every 22 infants fails to survive a full month. The irony is that most of the children die of preventable and curable diseases.
Furthermore, people are generally not aware of standard parenting methods. Typically, children are brought up in a manner which is detrimental to positive personality development. They are constantly bullied into doing what their parents want them to do. Many parents resort to physical punishment, without understanding the future psychological consequences of their actions on the child.
At the age of five, when children are admitted into schools, their hardships increase further. In most of the country’s schools, corporal punishment is in practice in full vigour. Students are beaten as if they were animals. Overlooking their natural potentials, students’ abilities are compared to those of their fellows, the weak students being taunted and humiliated by their teachers, parents and others around them.
At almost the same age, the most unfortunate of children are put to work as industrial and domestic labour. These children virtually live in fear, and are often treated as subhuman’s by their employers.
Meanwhile, it is our children who are used as suicide bombers by terrorists. They are either recruited persuasively, or are abducted and later brainwashed, and then sent on suicide missions.
Then there is the plight of this country’s girls — who are routinely forced to marry much older men. In parts of the country, daughters are traded to end enmities, settle debts and resolve other disputes. Vani, Ghag, and Swara are among some evil customs still enforced in many regions.
Many children are also susceptible to sexual exploitation. Horrible cases of child sexual abuse surfaced in different parts of the country recently, examples being the dreadful cases of Zainab and Asma. With respect to mass child sexual abuse, Kasur, a city on the outskirts of Lahore, is quite famous now for all the wrong reasons. Though these acts of moral turpitude are not limited to Kasur alone.
The communication gap between children and parents, as well as the conservative nature of our society are the main hindrances in protecting children. Many of them tend to keep their psychological and sexual afflictions to themselves, and never apprise their guardians of what they have been through. Even if their parents come to know about such tragic abuse, most would prefer to keep the whole matter in the dark, rather than take a stand for their child and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The well-being of children is not the responsibility of parents alone, the state must also work for their welfare. There is a need to focus on the law and order situation, and establish an effective judicial system. More awareness is needed on what kind of parenting helps children thrive. Furthermore, children should be taught and trained how to protect themselves against abuse and exploitation.
The writer can be reached atSirajShawa@gmail.com and Tweets at @SrjShawa
Culture of Intolerance in Higher Institutes of Learning
Universities are bastions of learning and research. They are not only supposed to provide quality teaching, promote research but also support an atmosphere where dialogue can take place. This dialogue or discussion and debate among scholars opens new vistas for research. Diversity of opinion is vital to this experience. Unfortunately, universities increasingly are heading the same way as the larger society – into an abyss where such aspirations are not only stifled but also demonised. My observations come from teaching at the leading university of Pakistan i.e. Quaid-i-Azam University.
In recent past the University has been shut down due to strikes on two occasions. On one occasion students went on a strike to restore their colleagues who had been expelled on disciplinary grounds as per university rules. The second time round it was the faculty that brought academic activities to a halt. The second strike is in full swing at the time of writing of this article. The Academic Staff Association (ASA), a representative body of the faculty, demands the resignation of the Vice Chancellor whom they deem incompetent. I will not delve into the righteousness or otherwise of the demands of the protestors during both these strikes but would like to point out how these protests laid bare the culture of intolerance in the university in the process negating not only the democratic spirit of protest itself but more importantly the spirit of free thought (and speech) that is a hallmark of a world class university.
A reading of email exchanges among faculty members at the faculty portal seems like a 3D adventure ride through the dark ages. Accusations, witch hunts, witch trials and burnings at the stake are the order of the day. Ever since Bush gave us the “you are either with us or against us” mantra we have held on to it like our lives depended on it. The Academic Staff Association (ASA) has given it new life by localising it with slogans like, ‘VC ka jo yaar hai who ghadaar hai ghadaar hai’ (friend to VC is traitor to us). And you don’t have to be a supporter of VC to earn this ire. All faculty members who are against VC but do not agree with ASA’s illegal measures of blocking university transportation to stop students reaching university also fall in this category. All neutrals are also boxed in here. Even those who are simply saying ‘ASA has a right to protest and we have right to teach so please let us teach’ are deemed traitors. Whatever ideological position one takes, if it is not in line with ASA’s boycott of academic activities to force the VC to resign is ‘VC ke yaar’. It gets a new meaning when they chant it at female faculty harassing them into either siding with them or staying quiet for who wishes to be labeled as ‘VC ki Yaar.’
A senior faculty who has recently retired from the university and has been reappointed as a Director on contractual basis posted a link from a news report in which students had given their views on the ongoing strike. As these views challenged the totalitarian views being portrayed by the leading lights of the protest, all hell broke loose. Below the belt personal jibes, insults and threats followed email upon email. A large number of faculty members, some part of ASA others from institutes & centers affiliated to QAU and housed in its premises also gave press releases objecting to this threatening environment in the university perpetuated by certain ASA stalwarts and impeding of educational activities. I was going to post these links for others to read and comment upon. Seeing the treatment meted out to a senior faculty, I thought better of it.
The purpose of faculty email portal is to provide a platform for exchange of ideas. If we cannot discuss our ideological and political positions amongst colleagues and improve our thinking processes through their constructive feedback, how are we supposed to advance learning and challenge or add to the already existing knowledge base? This atmosphere of openly threatening opposing views suppresses any possibility of such productive exchange. The threatening emails at the faculty email portal make it clear that intolerance is increasingly being institutionalised in higher institutes of learning even like Quaid-i-Azam University which until now had been a safe haven for progressive thought and speech. It would be a shame if it were to fall prey to the ills of the larger society like intolerance rather than providing hope for a tolerant and progressive society.
Can our colonial institutions deliver freedom? I am afraid the answer is a resounding ‘no’. The unanimous 1973 constitution keeps us together while defining the boundaries of vital state organs. Despite repeated incursions the sacred document has survived, only a few unholy amendments remain. It is time to revisit the institutional frameworks, service to the people of Pakistan is still not a part of their colonial portfolio, while the ‘Goras’ left seven decades ago the Brown Sahib’ has tried to fit into their shoes. The struggle for freedom continues unabated.
The first constituent assembly comprised of elected members of the 1946 general elections who opted for Pakistan. Quaid-e-Azam then appointed the Prime Minister (PM), Chief Minister (CM) and Cabinet Members. The slide started first with assassination of the elected PM Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan in 1951. In 1954 the elected assembly was dismissed which was a big setback for our democratic struggle. Next day Ayub Khan joined the cabinet in uniform as Defence Minister, the encroachment had started which has continued since then.
After 1946, the elections in 1970 were a major milestone in our democratic struggle. The ballot was free and fair but the establishment was cornered. Quaid’s Pakistan was dismembered. Instead of one, two democracies emerged from the debris of dictatorship. Bangladesh under the leadership of Sheikh Muji-ur-Rehman and what remained under the stewardship of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (ZAB). The truly elected assembly then framed the unanimous 1973 constitution.
In seventy years Pakistan has experienced only two genuinely elected houses, one elected in 1946 while the other in 1970. Dismissal of the first in 1954 by Governor General Ghulam Muhammad (Gamma) was engineered. I am not sure who convinced ZAB to voluntarily dissolve the parliament one year ahead of schedule in 1977. Perhaps he was over confidant and fell for his insatiable desire to have absolute or 2/3 majority to amend the constitution at will. A nine party opposition alliance was waiting in the wings to take him on. Since then neither Pakistan nor its fledgling democracy has recovered. There has been a big ‘political circus’ for the last forty years (1977 to 2017) with ten manipulated electoral misadventures which has produced third rate leadership that we have to endure today.
In order to move forward the country needs an organisational overhaul, in other words the organics have to be corrected. New SOP’s are required (Standard Operating Procedures) to serve not to rule the people. Colonial ways cannot deliver change. In America all institutions were dismantled and rebuilt after the war of independence, China did the same in 1949. Recently when Hong Kong was handed over by the British a fresh start was made. On July 01, 1997 the last Governor Chris Patten was driven to the airport the facility was turned into a Colonial Museum. No Chinese administrator every lived in the Governor’s House as it was not available and considered forbidden. Except for its sovereign status for trade, today the Island is totally Chinese. The British influence has been contained; all institutions have been rebuilt to suit the local population.
Since independence in 1947, a number of commissions, committees and experts have been appointed to study India’s administrative system and to recommend necessary changes. There has been internal resistance to reform civil bureaucracies in the colonies. Members of the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP, CSS) have effectively blocked reforms. Cornelius Commission (1956 – 1962) made several important recommendations which were not acceptable to the privileged Civil Service Cadres. Two members of the commission belonging to the CSP disagreed with the majority opinion and submitted a dissenting note justifying maintenance of status-quo. The lawyers’ movement in 2007 has reformed the judiciary to a great extent. Media has also been relatively free. The Khakis have rendered sacrifices in the war on terror. Once the menace of terrorism is uprooted they can gracefully return to the barracks.
Today Pakistan suffers most from political incompetence. Performance of the elected bodies is dismal. The reformers need major reforms to drive change. There was a time when the leadership was able and honest led by stalwarts of the freedom struggle (Liaquat Ali, Khawaja Nazimuddin, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, Abdul Qayyum Khan, Feroz Khan Noon etc). The elected political leadership was able in the brief democratic period (1971 – 1977) that followed the first martial law in 1958. ZAB was the last PM who could do paperwork and wrote on the files, the ones that came after him lacked that capability. As a nation we have regressed not progressed mainly due to corrupt and incompetent leadership.
In 1947 the colonial institutions that we inherited were at least functional today they are overwhelmed and dysfunctional. The task to reform them is even more difficult but a start has to be made. The unanimous 1973 constitution stands as a beacon of hope for the nation. The trial of the last Khaki dictator under Article 6 has blocked that route to power. Article 62, 63 has resulted in political cleansing. Another credible ballot will have a major impact to break the political stagnation of status quo where state apparatus is used to manipulate the electoral process. Parliament is the Mecca of democracy as such it must be operated by individuals of strength and character not criminals, tax and loan defaulters. Colonial institutions were not designed to serve free people, they have proven to be impediments in our quest for freedom, and as such their reformation is imminent to move forward.
Reconstructing The Power Troika
Addressing a Pakistan Day ceremony in Lahore last week, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar ruled out the possibility of the much-anticipated ‘judicial coup’ in Pakistan after making it quite clear that there was no such thing as ‘judicial martial law’ in the constitution. He also pledged to not let democracy derail in Pakistan. This unequivocal ‘assurance’ from the country’s top judge regarding the future of democracy is certainly significant as there are currently a lot of speculations and doubts about the continuance of the democratic process in Pakistan. In fact, Pakistanis have become accustomed to these sorts of assurances and guarantees offered by individuals holding various positions of authority in the country. Various army chiefs have frequently been making similar statements about the future of democracy. The CJP’s recent statement about democracy is equally important and relevant as the superior judiciary is now considered an integral part of the country’s new de facto power structure in which the apex court is also calling the shots along with the executive and the military establishment.
Generally referred to as a ‘power troika’, there has been a triangular power structure in Pakistan in 1990s. The president, prime minister and army chief used to be the three components of this so-called troika. The 18th constitutional amendment passed by the Parliament in 2010 eventually resulted in deconstructing this power troika in the country. Through this constitutional amendment, the extraordinary powers of the president, namely the power to dissolve National and Provincial Assemblies, were taken away. However, no sooner did the old troika disappear than there emerged another power troika replacing the President with the Chief Justice of Pakistan. Being part of the new power troika, the apex court can not only scrutinise the qualifications and conduct of the parliamentarians but also can show a prime minister the door. At the same, the apex court is also performing acts which used to be within the exclusive domain of the executive branch of the government in the name of protecting fundamental rights of the citizens. Many people are also viewing this ‘judicial activism’ as mere an instrument to advance the institutional agenda of the military establishment in the changed political cum constitutional scenario in the country.
Former CJP Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry played a pivotal role in evolving the new power troika. Having been restored as the CJP in March 2009 in consequence of a so-called rule of law movement launched by the legal fraternity and the civil society, he just chose to act in an authoritarian fashion as the country’s top judge. He visibly extended the scope of Article 184(3) of the Constitution to take cognizance of the diverse legal and administrative matters. He extensively exercised the extraordinary constitutional powers of the apex court to take a large number of suo motu actions, giving rise to his personalised judicial activism in the country. He disqualified the former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani. He also gave the PPP government a hard time on various corruption issues. Later, in the wake of Panamagate case, the apex court just chose to revive the Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry’s legacy. Now It has disqualified PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and PTI’s former Secretary General Jahangir Tareen for not being ‘Sadiq and Ameen’ in accordance with Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution.
In addition to disqualifying legislators, the apex court has also started extensively exercising its suo motu jurisdiction. For the last few months, the apex court has taken a large number of suo motu actions on a variety of issues ranging from the contaminated drinking water and substandard milk to extra-judicial killings, rape-cum-murder incidents of minor girls, illegal constructions, blockade of roads for VVIP movements, security barriers in public streets, Axact fake degree scam, laundered money of Pakistanis in foreign accounts, sale of substandard and expensive coronary stents, high fees charged by private medical colleges, and lack of health facilities at public hospitals, police encounters in Punjab etc. At present, the executive is considering this judicial practice as an encroachment upon its legal authority.
Under the new power structure, the military establishment and the judiciary are exercising considerable control over the executive. Therefore, the status and role of the executive is visibly marginalised. The extended concept of national security has resulted in extending the institutional domain of the military in Pakistan. The military exclusively shapes the contours of the county’s national security policy. It determines the national defence strategy. It formulates the foreign as well as regional policy. Now it has also started playing an important role in ensuring the internal security. Similarly, the apex court has also extended the scope of constitutional jurisdiction on the basis of wider interpretation of the fundamental rights of the citizens in Pakistan. It can intervene in the affairs of the executive on the pretext of preserving fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
As a matter of fact, the executive is equally to be blamed for eroding its legal authority in the country. The administrative inaction and incompetence of the executive created a vacuum which has readily been filled by the superior judiciary. One just wonders what stops the executive from taking measures to address the grievances of the ordinary people as doing the apex court. In a parliamentary form of government, the executive acts as the representative of the popular sovereignty. Therefore, it can, by no means, afford to neglect the will and welfare of the people. If it does so, it will certainly lose the popular support. In Pakistan, the successive civilian governments have been promoting their selfish and narrow political interests at the cost of the collective interests of the people. At present, PML-N government looks hardly concerned about the welfare of Pakistanis. Its leaders and ministers are just trying to make ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif politically active and relevant in the country by hook or by crook.
At present, there is a tug of war between the executive and the judiciary over establishing their institutional supremacy in the country. There is also a considerable mistrust between the two important organs of the government. Therefore, as in the 1990s, the newly-emerged dear facto power structure in Pakistan is rather volatile which is unlikely to sustain for a long time. Indeed, this assumption of extraordinary powers by the superior judiciary is absolutely unacceptable to the executive. Disgruntled PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif has openly rejected his disqualification verdict. Now he has announced his ‘movement for justice’ which is being viewed as a campaign to contain the rising influence of the judiciary in the national affairs. Therefore, if PML-N succeeds in coming into power after the forthcoming general elections, it will certainly try to clip the superior judiciary’s wings.
It is a fact that the so-called power troika in Pakistan in 1990s has not done the country any great service. This power structure has been instrumental in undermining the democratic process in the country. The new power troika is also not likely to help us improving things in Pakistan. It would only give rise to more administrative anomalies and ambiguities. The conflict between the executive and the judiciary would be harmful for Pakistan. Therefore, all state institutions must learn to remain within their respective constitutional domain. Constitutionalism is the only way forward. Making statements in favour of democracy would not suffice. Indeed, actions speak louder than words.
Messy Run-Up To The Elections
THE countdown has begun. Just two months are left to the end of the five-year term of the National Assembly, and the ensuing elections may well lead to the second democratic transition from one elected government to another. It would certainly be a milestone in the country’s rocky political journey. Yet it seems as if there are miles to go before we are there.
Cynicism abounds with the gathering storm on the country’s political horizon. While the so-called Bajwa doctrine has provided fresh impetus to the perennial doubters, some other factors too have contributed to this climate of political uncertainty. Judicial overdrive and the National Accountability Bureau’s blitz against politicians and their alleged henchmen in the bureaucracy have also fuelled conspiracy theories.
Meanwhile, allegations of foul play in the Senate election raise questions about the fairness of the electoral process. Many see the security establishment behind the defeat of the PML-N candidate for Senate chairman. It could be true but it had also to do with the opportunistic alignment of political forces to keep the PML-N from succeeding in its attempts to return to power.
Indeed, the plot has been successful in preventing the ruling party from taking control of the upper house, but it may not work in the general elections, with no possibility of the PPP and PTI joining hands. There is also a limit to what the establishment can do to influence the course of politics that is getting murkier with so many factors coming into the play. It is an extremely unpredictable situation and no one seems to be in charge.
More critical, however, is the impending accountability court ruling in the graft cases against Nawaz Sharif and his family. The monitoring Supreme Court judge has extended the deadline for the winding up of the trial in three months. Some perceive that such a delay arises out of concerns that a chaotic situation could develop if the former prime minister is convicted while a PML-N government is still in power, and that it is better if it happens under a non-party interim administration.
Yet it will be hard for any government to deal with a possible backlash triggered by a court ruling against the Sharifs on the eve of the general elections. Indeed, the military has promised full backing to the judiciary, and all the state institutions are bound by the Constitution to get the court order implemented; but given the highly explosive political situation, things do not look that good.
There is no indication yet of Sharif, arguably still the most powerful political leader in the country, shedding his defiance. Although chances of any mass protest is unlikely, it would certainly heighten political tensions, with the possibility of the military getting sucked more deeply into the mire. The generals are already in the driving seat with an increasingly weakened civilian government in place.
Surely, a major challenge for the PML-N would be to maintain unity in the ranks in the event of Sharif’s conviction and a clash with what is described as the military-judiciary nexus. The signs of a divide are quite apparent with Chaudhry Nisar openly challenging his erstwhile leader. The former interior minister may not have been very popular among his party colleagues; nevertheless, he represents the sentiments of many other senior members.
But a conviction may also give the party a victim card to play more effectively in the election campaign. It has, indeed, worked well so far in mobilising the party and the general masses. It is quite evident that Sharif’s popular support has not diminished, if it has not increased. It is a serious challenge to the security establishment to contain the disgraced leader who apparently it will not allow to return to power at any cost.
A serious crisis is waiting to happen on the eve of the general elections the outcome of which is hard to predict. It is an unmanageable chaos that would threaten the entire political edifice. That raises questions about the elections being held on time. The cynics have their reasons to be pessimistic.
It is not just about the fallout of the Sharif trial, the court has also ordered retired Gen Musharraf to return to the country and face trial on sedition charges. Noncompliance by the former military ruler could create a challenging situation for both the judiciary and the administration.
The erstwhile army chief’s trial had been a major source of tension between the former Sharif government and the military. The issue could also place the military leadership in an awkward situation, though Gen Bajwa appeared to indicate that his institution did not have any objection to the trial of the former military ruler.
But it will not be that easy for the military leadership to watch its former chief standing trial for treason. It is a well-known fact that Musharraf had the protection of the then military leadership when he returned to the country ending his self-exile in 2013 when he faced multiple cases including treason charges. It is certainly becoming a messy situation casting its shadow over the coming elections.
Though completely unsubstantiated, there has been speculation about a long-term interim arrangement backed by the military and judiciary. The deteriorating state of the economy is also being used to justify the argument for the postponement of general elections and the installation of a long-term technocratic administrative arrangement. Such suggestions come in handy each time the country faces a political crisis. It is, however, unlikely that any political party would agree to such a proposition that could derail the democratic process.
More importantly, such an arrangement would be an extra-constitutional act without any legal cover. That could pull the the country into a bigger political mess with serious implications for the unity of the federation. It is, indeed, a messy run-up to the elections but they are the only way out.
Every day, the White House turns astonishment into understatement. And the next move by President Donald Trump often defies any possible rational explanation. Last week proved this point, although no one should be surprised by what next week may bring.
President Trump declared a trade war on America’s trading partners; bureaucratic war on his most senior aides; political war on Special Counsel Robert Mueller; a phony war against his predecessors for not having the ‘smarts’ or ‘chemistry’ to deal with North Korea; and a war of words and legal threats against a pornstar, a former Playboy Bunny and a fired Celebrity Apprentice. Perhaps the POTUS would have been better off if he had read a little history about how two front wars usually spelled disaster. Now he is engaged in twice that number.
The announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminium, denounced by every single reputable historian and economist as unworkable and since ratcheted back, and $60 billion against China has caused stock markets to tumble if not crash yet.
Trump has rid himself of a secretary of state; national security adviser; economic adviser; and lead attorney in the Russian investigation. In their stead, he has appointed a former member of the House of Representatives and current CIA director; a Fox cable news commentator; an MSNBC talking head; and a lawyer who believes the FBI and Justice Departments ‘framed’ the President.
Robert Mueller’s days may be numbered, as spineless Republicans in Congress refuse to stand up for the Special Counsel.
The three fair ladies are not just launching legal suits, but full-fledged media blitzes detailing Trump’s extra-marital affairs, which probably don’t sit well with the first lady. It is hard to imagine what will happen next.
Aside from this spectacle, which cannot be encouraging to most Americans about the performance of their Chief Executive, Trump has also damaged American standing abroad as the so-called leader of the free world. Is there a plan or strategy behind Trump’s highly idiosyncratic actions? If there is, what might that be?
People rarely shed decades of past behaviour and experience even after being elected to the Oval Office. The President’s experience came from the tough real estate business, where bluffs, threats and bravado were acceptable if not desirable tools, at least for Trump. When Trump was in trouble over his purchase of the Plaza Hotel in New York, for example, he sued his way clear of danger. One of many such ploys. This could be his tactic with China (and the three ladies).
By threatening $60 billion in penalties, the president could be expecting China to negotiate a better deal. This would be in keeping with the President’s self-described brilliance as a deal maker. The problem is, suppose China is not like Trump’s loan holders for the Plaza Hotel, and decides to fight fire with fire or tariff with tariff? What happens next?
His choice of Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State and John Bolton as HR McMaster’s replacement as NSA will be seen as direct threats by Iran and North Korea. Pompeo has been aggressive towards both and withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. Bolton has raised the ante by proposing decapitating strikes against Iran and North Korea, as well as regime change in Tehran. Will these threats cause either Iran or North Korea to comply with White House demands?
Indeed, Trump’s infatuation with Saudi Arabia not only accounts for more than $12 billion of arms sales that are important to American defence firms. The idea of a quasi or de facto alliance with Riyadh and the UAE against Iran, which will also help Israel is not far-fetched. Still, none of these possibilities have been made public by the White House.
Some bets then: first, the JCPOA is on life support and is unlikely to survive. Next, more pressure will be placed on North Korea based on the American military build-up that has taken place in South Korea over the past year to coerce Kim Jung Un to denuclearise. If diplomacy fails, do not discount some form of military action.
Last, Donald Trump may think that he no longer needs a Chief of Staff, something Jimmy Carter attempted and quickly learned his lesson. Whether the current office holder will follow in the footsteps of two other generals — former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn and HR McMaster is unclear. But the President could turn the White House into a Trump Company like organisation.