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Pakistan Press (21 Sep 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Balochistan: Disturbing Trends By Muhammad Akbar Notezai: New Age Islam's Selection, 21 September 2017

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

21 September 2017

Balochistan: Disturbing Trends

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

Whither Doomsday Scenarios?

By Khalid Saleem

A Message from the By-Poll

By Kamila Hyat

Rohingya Muslims: Morality and Realpolitik

By Shahid M Amin

Stop Disgracing the Institutions

By Mohammad Jamil

Lessons from the By-Election

By I.A. Rehman

Alternative Cure

By F.S. Aijazuddin

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Balochistan: Disturbing Trends

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

September 21, 2017

IN Balochistan, before the census began, it was believed that the results of the exercise in the province would lead to a hue and cry among the Baloch. However, they were not as irked as expected. For in the lead-up to the census, the question on every Baloch tongue was: are we going to turn into a minority in our own province?

Disaggregated results of the percentage of ethnic and minority groups in Balochistan are awaited, but the provisional results released make it very clear that the Baloch are still a majority group in the province.

These results also demonstrate that the population of Quetta city has increased manifold. Within a span of 19 years, it has jumped from 700,000 to about 2.2 million. This should be cause for concern for both local Baloch and Pakhtuns in Quetta. While the city in the 1980s — during the Afghan ‘jihad’ next door — had started to resemble a mini Kandahar because the latter’s politics and culture were being transferred to Quetta, Kandahar today looks like a mini Quetta because of the population explosion in the latter.

It is an open secret that Afghans in Quetta and elsewhere in Balochistan have acquired CNICs. Moreover, in the past the Hazara Shias used to own the key businesses in the city, but that is not the case any longer. Hundreds of Hazara have lost their lives in sectarian killings; this has not only restricted them to their secured enclaves but spurred many of them to migrate to Australia. Today, it is Afghans who own businesses in Quetta. More than the local Baloch, this has repercussions for the Pakhtuns who have for centuries lived in the city. It is highly likely that in the near future they (Afghans) will gain control over the resources of Pakhtuns in Balochistan.

Quetta’s Pakhtuns should be concerned about the census results.

Unlike in the past, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP), the largest Pakhtun nationalist party in Balochistan, now supports and refers to Afghan refugees as their brethren. They also wanted them to be included in the census while the Baloch nationalists adamantly opposed the move.

Historically, the Baloch and Pakhtun leaderships have together struggled for the rights of the people of Balochistan, but their differences have driven them apart. Over the decades, these differences have taken the shape of rivalry. Ironically, the PkMAP was in favour of the census, but is opposing it after the provisional results despite the fact that they show the Pakhtun population as having increased compared to the Baloch.

Baloch nationalists also are opposed to the census because, according to them, many Baloch have left their homes since the beginning of the fifth Baloch insurgency in 2000 and moved to neighbouring districts in Sindh and Punjab provinces. There are thus a great number of Baloch internally displaced people. It was this that prompted Balochistan’s former chief minister Dr Abdul Malik Baloch to write to the federal government to cancel the holding of the census in the province until or unless the Baloch IDPs return to their native places.

The security establishment, however, is taking the credit for successfully conducting the census without much of an uproar in Balochistan. Here, it is worth mentioning that the voter turnout in the 2013 general elections was at an all-time low in Balochistan. That is why the security establishment did not want the conviction of hard-line Baloch that they’d be turned into a minority group in the province to be proved correct. Baloch separatists had also asked the Baloch not to participate in the census. Had the Baloch proved to be a minority group, it would have served the interests of the hard-liners.

Interestingly, although various Baloch factions, particularly the Balochistan National Party-Mengal and the National Party had publicly opposed the census, they had privately exhorted their workers and the overall Baloch population to take part because a boycott could have proved disastrous for their political survival. They are already apprehensive about the demographic changes that CPEC and related Chinese investments in Balochistan will bring to the province. Meanwhile, the census appears to have proven false the claim by Baloch nationalists that there are three million Afghan refugees in Balochistan.

Lastly, Balochistan is a multi-ethnic province: its population in the previous 1998 census comprised 55 per cent Baloch and 30pc Pakhtun with the remainder including Hazargi-, Urdu-, Punjabi-, Sindhi-, Seraiki-, and Persian-speaking groups. While it is time the state utilised census data for better development of its largest province, this census data, as previously, is likely to pit ethnic groups in the province against each other, particularly the Baloch and the Pakhtuns.

Source: dawn.com/news/1359077/disturbing-trends


Whither Doomsday Scenarios?

By Khalid Saleem

September 20, 2017

For long one’s date of birth is believed to have a bearing on the character and wellbeing of an individual. Whether you believe in horoscopes or not, the fact remains that these somewhat ghastly harbingers do cast a looming shadow of sorts and that not only on persons of a sensitive temperament. Our neighbours across the border to the east are, of course, firm believers in such astrological marvels. Virtually nothing is permitted to take place without due clearance from a chap who dabbles in this occult science. Even such an otherwise resolute leader like the late Indira Gandhi, one is told, allowed her actions to be swayed by her favourite soothsayers. Many in the West, motivated though by the scientific spirit, still are not fully immune to the influence of those who read into the influence of movement and juxtaposition of the planets.

When those who had something to do with Roman mythology designated Mars as the god of war, they had no way of looking into the future, the Oracle notwithstanding! They could have had no inkling at all about the events of 9/11 or, indeed, the ensuing war on terror. But such is the way of nature in the topsy-turvy world of today. Beset as it is with pestilences such as globalisation and doctrine of pre-emption, they appear to have come into juxtaposition somehow. If the aforementioned does not make sense to the reader, one must hasten to explain that it is not meant to. Whoever thought the New World Order was ever designed to make sense to the common man, anyway?

One craves the indulgence of the reader to recall a stinging news item of several years ago, datelined Phnom Penh, which conveyed the earth-shaking news that soothsayers from the hosts, India and Hong Kong, meeting in a tent outside a temple in the heart of Cambodia’s capital, had declared that a close encounter with Mars would spell disaster — natural or manmade — to Earth. Apparently, sometime after the doomsday prediction in question, Mars was to pass closer to Earth than at any time in the past 60,000 years. Sceptics’ shrugs notwithstanding, the soothsayers’ predictions were not entirely off the mark, though.

At this point, the gentle reader may well be tempted to ask as to where all this is leading. Humankind has surrounded itself with the wherewithal of all kinds of explosive matter — not to talk of WMDs — and has, thereby, become disaster prone. The work of the soothsayer has, as a consequence, become somewhat simpler than what it used to be in the days of yore. The world today is like a tinderbox, with flashpoints spread all over. The doomsday merchant merely has to point to the more crises-prone areas. Given the trigger-happy lot that sits at the helm of affairs, chances are that, the soothsayer will hit the jackpot. Prizes these days should be reserved for those who are the harbingers of glad tidings rather than those who predict doom.

Since times immemorial, men of vision, or men who feign to have a vision of sorts, have taken delight in predicting the end of the world. Mercifully, most of them have been proven wrong. But still, the game lingers on. Some have linked these scenarios to astrological phenomena, others to changes linked to a man’s propensity to court disasters. Either way, it is something to be wary of.

Technological advancement has placed man in an unenviable situation in which he has acquired the capability to destroy the earth, several times over. Just why he feels the need to do that, leaves one in a bind. And yet, humankind is out to add newer and more potent means of self-destruction to the already formidable arsenal. The doomsday merchant, to his credit, merely deigns to predict the destruction of earth. It is not for one to sermonise, but to draw the line in the sands of time. To procrastinate may well amount to courting disaster!

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1510872/whither-doomsday-scenarios/


A Message from the By-Poll

By Kamila Hyat

September 21, 2017

The by-poll in Lahore to fill the seat vacated by Nawaz Sharif was important in many different ways. Of course, the multiple posters of Kulsoom Nawaz and her arch rival Dr Yasmin Rashid dominated the campaigning process. There was also the occasional picture of PPP leader Faisal Mir pinned up on poles – perhaps to simply complete a formality. As we all saw, the by-poll demonstrated the dramatic loss of the PPP’s power as a major party in Punjab, with Mir eventually collecting just over 1,000 votes.

What was significant – and possibly alarming – was that 11 percent of votes were picked up by candidates from two extremist religious groups. Sheikh Azhar Hussain Rizvi of the Labbaik Ya Rasulallah collected just over 7,000 votes. The group is a coalition of several small religious parties that campaigned by holding posters of Mumtaz Qadri, who was convicted and executed for the murder of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer in 2011.

While six percent of votes went to the group, five percent were collected by Muhammad Yaqoob Sheikh. While he was contesting as an independent candidate, Sheikh essentially represented the Milli Muslim League (MML), which is currently seeking registration. Sheikh claimed nearly 6,000 votes while the votes of the more traditional religious parties, such as the JI, failed to reach a respectable figure. The PPP also remained in the fifth position, barely making a mark in the vote bank.

The appearance of Qadri as part of the poll campaign in a major Lahore seat suggests how great the threat of extremism is. In many circles, he has already been given the status of a national hero despite being executed for the former Punjab governor’s murder. Images on social media show small children being taken to his grave to salute Qadri.

Of course, the JuD or the MML – the party that is currently in evolution – are not responsible for this alone. But when the ECP and others who wield power permit banned outfits that hold at least some extremist ideas to participate in polls, mixed messages are sent out to the people. On the one hand, we have been told that under the National Action Plan, which was devised in January 2015, even the teaching of hatred at mosques and madrasas would be penalised and maximum efforts would be made to create tolerance in society.

While there is no evidence that these small religious groups will have a major impact on the 2018 elections, there are precedents of organisations that have been banned under the country’s laws participating in polls through different mean. The Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan – an organisation that played a key role in giving rise to sectarian hatred through its fiercely anti-Shia message – has taken part in polls even after the ban was placed on it. The group has been an ally of the PML-N in Punjab and has in a few constituencies openly declared support for its candidates, even when it has not fielded a contender of its own. In some parts of the country, such patronage for a particular party can have an extremely powerful impact.

Similar dangerous liaisons between banned outfits and mainstream political parties have been brokered in other parts of the country, with most major parties being guilty of this in one way or the other. This raises questions about their commitment to tackling extremism and all the violence that it has brought to our nation.

It is also difficult to assess why the higher authorities do not make an attempt to push these organisations out of the mainstream. Connivance between some of these organisations and the Pakistani establishment has been referred to multiple times over the past few weeks by the US, the Brits and other nations. If there is no connectivity, why don’t we make this more obvious by compelling major parties to adhere to the tenets of NAP that they all sat together and signed in the aftermath of the massacre at a school in Peshawar?

Allowing outfits that may have terrorist leanings to enter mainstream politics is an extremely dangerous trend. It is precisely for this reason that suggestions from certain quarters that even sections of the TTP should be mainstreamed have been fiercely challenged on multiple occasions. The proposal continues to be made. We can only hope that we do not see a day when a TTP candidate, who has participated in the mass murder of people in various parts of his own country, is permitted to contest a poll.

It is perhaps encouraging that Sheikh collected only a small number of votes compared to the two strong women who battled it out for the seat. Nevertheless, 4,000 votes is not a miniscule number. It is true that many of these votes were most likely polled on the basis of the excellent social work carried out by the JuD in many parts of the country, including the neglected outskirts of NA-120. But these efforts should not disguise the fact that the group also sends out dangerous messages, especially in relation to jihad, enemy states in the region and other issues of significance within the country. We cannot neglect the fact that Hafiz Muhammad Saeed has been accused of various crimes – even if these charges have yet to be proved in court.

From this arises another important matter. If the JuD and other groups can organise themselves to carry out efforts that benefit the people by providing food services, sanitation-building drives, schools and other facilities, why can’t our political parties, with their vast resources, manage the same? It is, after all, shameful that in NA-120 – the home constituency of a former prime minister – residents openly say that clean drinking water is not available to them.

The recent focus on this constituency – which includes some of the most congested areas of Lahore – also revealed that adequate streets, sewerage facilities and other basic amenities were not available to people. It appears that the PML-N had paid little heed to the constituency between 2013 and the recent by-poll.

The same would also be true of other constituencies – even those won by key leaders from all parties – everywhere in the country. Larkana, the home of the Bhuttos, is one of the most rundown towns in Sindh, with poverty visible everywhere. In Peshawar – from where the PTI draws its strength – observers have noticed that the condition of the people has failed to improve in terms of civic amenities or other facilities despite the many claims that have been made in this regard.

Such lapses, of course, promote extremism. They open up space for candidates who hold up Mumtaz Qadri or others like him as heroes to occupy the political space. If we are to succeed in tackling extremism and the horrors that it brings, the political parties will need to play a genuine role in putting aside the self-interest that they will need to abandon any alliances with groups that put forward messages of hatred or believe that killing an individual can be justified.

Multiple alliances of this nature have been formed in the past. When we consider this, documents such as NAP lose all meaning. They merely seek to fool people and the world into believing that our leaders are committed to tackling violence. If they genuinely intend to send out this message and prevent incidents such as the one that led to the beating of a 17-year-old Christian boy to death in his high school in Vehari, we will need to go beyond cosmetic measures.

All political parties must lead the way during the 2018 elections and show that protecting their own interest is secondary to doing deals that, on the whole, hurt their country.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/231515-A-message-from-the-by-poll


Rohingya Muslims: Morality and realpolitik

By Shahid M Amin

September 21, 2017

WORLD has been shocked by the cruel persecution of Rohingya Muslims by the police and army of Myanmar, egged on by Buddhist priests and a highly nationalistic population. In the last one-month, about 300,000 Rohingyas have fled their homes to take refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. They have told stories of horrible atrocities, amounting to a virtual genocide. But two important neighbours, China and India, have endorsed Myanmar’s policies. Many observers are puzzled by the stance of these two countries. China has often supported oppressed peoples in the world, including Palestinians. India claims to be the largest democracy in the world. Even more puzzling is the defiance of world opinion by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Prize winner for Peace, who had struggled for years to uphold human rights in Myanmar and today is in a position of authority in her country. The explanation for these paradoxes is that in international politics, cold-blooded calculation of national interests, called realpolitik, overrides morality.

The Rohingyas are an ethnic Muslim minority of about 1.5 million people, who migrated to Arakan (renamed as Rakhine) from Bengal (now Bangladesh), during British colonial period. The British had conquered Burma in 1825 and ruled over it as part of British India. After Burma gained independence in 1948, it adopted a harsh policy towards Rohingya Muslims. They were viewed as illegal Bengali immigrants, different in race and religion from Buddhist Burmese. They were denied citizenship in their own country. Their lands have been confiscated by the military and handed over to Burmese settlers. When General Ne Win seized power in 1962, he launched military operations to crush Rohingyas. Many fled to Bangladesh which, however, showed little sympathy. In mid-1990s, Bangladesh even forcibly repatriated 200,000 refugees to Myanmar.

Independent studies conducted by the UN have confirmed evidence of increasing incitement of hatred and religious intolerance by ultra-nationalist Buddhists, led by monks. Police and armed forces have conducted ‘summary executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and ill-treatment and forced labour’ against Rohingyas, termed by the UN High Commission for Refugees as ‘crimes against humanity.’ The latest violence started in August 2017, when some Rohingya militants reportedly killed a dozen Myanmar policemen. The official response was brutal and a veritable genocide has been launched, with killings, burnings and rapes of Rohingyas that have forced lakhs to seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh. An overpopulated country, Bangladesh has for years shown insensitivity towards the plight of Rohingyas and shut its borders to any influx of refugees. But this time, Prime Minister Sheikh Haseena has been forced by pressure of international opinion —by the UN, Turkey and others— to accept these refugees temporarily. International humanitarian aid has been promised and is on its way. Pakistani public opinion, always sympathetic to Muslim causes, has induced Islamabad to speak out on the Rohingya issue.

There is strong international pressure on Aung San Suu Kyi, who is virtually her country’s Prime Minister, to put a stop to the atrocities against Rohingyas. In the past, she was seen as a fighter for democracy and human rights. Instead, she has accused the Rohingyas of resort to terrorism. Evidently, she fears that most of her countrymen, who are strongly nationalist, would turn against her if she speaks up for the oppressed Rohingya and she would be deprived of power and public support. She does not dare to defy the powerful military as well, which has issued a tough statement: ‘We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists.’ Therefore, realpolitik is behind her decision to overlook moral considerations.

China has issued a statement endorsing the Myanmar government’s stance. Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang stated on 12 September that China supported the Myanmar government’s efforts to ‘uphold peace and stability’ in Rakhine, adding: ‘We hope order and normal life there will be recovered as soon as possible’. China has made heavy investments in Myanmar and is currently building a transit route through Myanmar. This will be a crucial energy corridor that will reach the sea in Rakhine state. The pipeline will cost nearly $10 billion. There is an 868-km railway project, parallel to the Shwe natural gas pipeline adjacent to Rakhine. The trans-Myanmar infrastructure will link China’s Yunnan province to the Bay of Bengal. China has long been competing with India for influence in Myanmar. Another reason that could be influencing China’s stand on the Rohingya issue is its worry about Islamist secessionists in Xinjiang province. Realpolitik is clearly guiding China in its stance towards Myanmar.

Indian Prime Minister Modi, who visited Myanmar recently, has supported Myanmar’s policy towards Rohingyas, mainly for geostrategic reasons. Some observers hold there is a “Sino-Indian Great Game” taking place in Myanmar. India is worried about China’s rising influence in Myanmar and is determined not to be left out. There are concerns in India over China’s extensive military involvement in ports, naval and intelligence facilities, specifically the upgrading of a naval base at Sittwe, a major seaport located close to Kolkata. India is also cooperating to modernize Myanmar’s military. It is the largest market for Myanmar exports.

These realpolitik motives explain India’s turning a blind eye to genocide of Rohingyas. Moreover, Modi’s Hindutva philosophy is basically anti-Muslim. He is worried by the strong separatist movement in Indian-held Kashmir and views Rohingyas as Islamist secessionists and extremists. Many Muslim countries have spoken out forcefully against persecution of Rohingyas because Myanmar is of marginal importance for them. But when it comes to Indian atrocities in Kashmir, Muslim countries are silent because their national interests could be hurt by antagonizing a big power like India. Here again, realpolitik prevails over morality.

Source: pakobserver.net/morality-and-realpolitik/


Stop disgracing the institutions

By Mohammad Jamil

September 21, 2017

COMPULSIVE detractors of Pakistan, pseudo-intellectuals and some analysts and panelists have the penchant for disgracing institutions especially military. A few political leaders also denigrate military perhaps on the assumption that by weakening the military they will become stronger. Or perhaps they wanted to cover up their failures and foibles. On Saturday, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that Pakistan is being destabilised internally as part of an international conspiracy to prevent the ‘nuclear power’ to become an economic power. But at the same time, he alleged that some institutions wanted to usurp the powers and authority of Parliament, adding that as per reports there is an office from where NAB officers are being pressurized by an influential person to reopen Hudaibiya case. He also said that there was no precedent of appointing monitoring judge to oversee cases of an individual in the judicial history of the country.

But it is not true, as there were many cases in the past when monitoring judge was appointed. Ahsan Iqbal further said that “an elected prime minister had been ousted, which had no precedence, and he had not been given a right to appeal.” He forgot that Yousuf Raza Gilani was also ousted by the Supreme Court when he was convicted for contempt of court. Anyhow, PML-N leaders have been claiming about economic turnaround, but fact of the matter is that economy is in dire straits. More than four years down the line, the ruling party has still to show some reforms to pull up the sagging economy to provide jobs to the unemployed and allocate adequate funds for social sector. In fact, the government has not been able to achieve any of the economic targets. Remember that a strong economy is sine qua non for strong defence.

Some political parties and leaders have their share in roiling civil-military relations. Memogate scandal during PPP government; and more recently Dawn leaks by the incumbent government were efforts to denigrate military. A few ministers in the present government continue to insinuate that military and judiciary have colluded against Sharifs. In an interview with a private TV channel on September 05, 2017, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said that internationally banned outfits including Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT) and Jash-i-Mohammad (JeM) are operating from within Pakistan. “We should impose some restrictions on the activities of the elements like LeT and JeM, so that we can show the global community that we have put our house in order. We need to ask ourselves, have we acted upon the National Action Plan (NAP) in letter and spirit.” There is a widespread perception that the civil side of the government failed to implement the NAP.

The debate is also raging in the media on the statement of Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, and analysts and panelists demand of him to explain as to why the present government has failed to implement NAP. There were many reports in the media that during 2013 elections PML-N candidates were seen running campaign with the leaders of Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, which was rechristened after a ban of Sipah-i-Sahaba. Raza Rumi, a Pakistani journalist and policy analyst, in his newly published book, ‘The Fractious Path: Pakistan’s Democratic Transition’ notes: “In Pakistan, the most disturbing political feature is the kowtowing to militant outfits by local political parties for electoral gains. Most notably, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has entered into local, unwritten agreements with the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Such an alliance may favor the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz in the short term, but would have a high cost to Pakistani society overall.”

In fact, army has been absolutely neutral since 2008; however politicians have been trying to paint military in poor colour in order to run the affairs according to their whim and fancy. After an attack on an anchorperson in 2014, a private channel had maligned the military and the ISI, which had annoyed the military top brass. At that time, addressing the officers at Special Services Group (SSG) Headquarters at Tarbela in April 2014 the-then Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif had said: “The army respects all the institutions of the country but will also preserve its own dignity and institutional pride at all costs”. In fact, military top brass is sensitive to the sentiments and feelings of majors and colonels who command the units on ground. Our political leadership should know that nowhere in the world the military is voiceless, and has a say in the national matters.

Even in the entrenched and established democracies their input and assessment of threat perceptions is given importance, and becomes the basis of policy making. This is the way to go about it in Pakistan; otherwise political leadership may not end up with a situation wholly undesirable. Since the appointment of General Qamar Bajwa, there was complete understanding between the government and military over all national matters; but Dawn Leaks had marred that relationship. Differences had emerged because the government tried to convey an impression that military was hindrance in taking action against militant groups, and also in improving relations with neighbours. It is true that praetorians and politicians were contemptuous of each other for different reasons; but after 2008 elected leaders were responsible for the deterioration in civil-military relations. Anyhow, the elected members and ministers should try to solve the problems faced by the common man; and this is the only way to make Parliament relevant and respectable.

Source: pakobserver.net/stop-disgracing-institutions/


Lessons from the By-Election

By I.A. Rehman

September 21, 2017

NOW that the hullabaloo generated by the NA-120 by-election is over, a serious study of the exercise should begin, for there are lessons in it that must not be ignored.

It was a well-contested poll and although the turnout at 39 per cent was much lower than in 2013 when it was 59pc, it was pretty high for a normal by-election. However, for this specific by-election, it might be considered low since the main rivals had raised the stakes to abnormal heights. The localities won by the two main contenders respectively will be better identified when disaggregated returns from polling stations are studied, but it is already clear that the PML-N and PTI can claim overwhelming support in very few localities although both have a substantial presence in all parts of the constituency.

That the percentage of women’s votes cast to their share of the total is significantly lower than men’s should be cause for concern. Again, polling station-wise analysis will show in which parts of the constituency women voters’ turnout was lower than elsewhere and the reasons for this will need to be explored.

The outcome shows that both the main contenders have lost. The PML-N has managed to retain this constituency but its vulnerability in the next contest has been exposed. The victory margin is so thin that if the environment continues to worsen for the Sharifs, or even if all factors remain the same, the PTI could overtake its rival. The fall in the PML-N’s share of the vote by around 10pc and PTI’s gain by 3pc are significant pointers of the trend for change. (The PTI was supported by several parties and its bag includes the votes provided by these parties.)

The PML-N and PTI can claim overwhelming support in very few localities.

The PTI has lost not only by failing to capture a Nawaz Sharif stronghold but also, and more importantly, by being unable to establish that Imran Khan’s time has come. The message from NA-120 is that if the weather remains favourable for Imran Khan his party could upstage the PML-N in Punjab. But the road to Prime Minister’s House will still not be clear for him because there is a Pakistan outside Punjab too, however vehemently the Punjab leaders may deny this, and that part should not be taken for granted by anyone.

Both parties dragged the Supreme Court into the electoral squabble. The PML-N consistently argued that those voting for it would reject the Supreme Court verdict in the Panama case while the PTI maintained that a vote in its favour would amount to an endorsement of the court’s decision. Both were in the wrong and their assumptions were unfair to the apex court.

That 60,000 people voted for the PML-N in spite of Nawaz Sharif not being found Sadiq and Ameen and liable to face trial in an accountability court is a reflection of the country’s political culture and nothing else. Likewise, the PTI’s claim that it represented the Supreme Court is untenable because a majority of the people voting for it on Sunday had most probably voted for it in 2013 ie before the Panama Papers were leaked. The judiciary has perhaps much to account for but let it not be dragged into electoral politics.

Both sides have their complaints. The PTI is challenging the increase in the total registered votes by 29,000. This means an increase by 9.8pc over four years. In the same constituency, the electorate increased by about 15pc during 2002-2008 and by about 10pc during 2008-2013. It should not be difficult to sort out this matter. The PTI has also protested against the use of state resources in the League’s campaign. But government support does not always help the candidates. If it did, no government could have been voted out of power.

The PML-N also complained of a disadvantage. It was fighting an election under the banner of a leader who had recently fallen from grace and whose review petition had, by a strange coincidence, been dismissed only a couple of days earlier. Its allegation that some of its effective activists had been picked up the night before certainly merits serious probe. The party has itself to blame if Shahbaz Sharif preferred a Turkish bath to watching the Sunday contest.

These complaints can be redressed and the Election Commission should be helped to overcome the problems it faces instead of being used as a punching bag by all and sundry.

The party that has lost the most is the PPP. Its continued decline not only in Lahore but also at the national level bodes ill for the future of democracy in Pakistan. Though no longer a left outfit, it is the only party in parliament that can occasionally challenge the right’s aberrations. As the rightist parties’ hold over national politics gets stronger, the state is bound to become vulnerable to pressure from the extreme right and everybody knows the kind of disaster that this would entail.

A significant aspect of this election is the rise of two extremist outfits in this constituency — the Barelvi Labbaik Ya Rasulallah party and the Deobandi Milli Muslim League. They came third and fourth respectively and together polled almost 13,000 votes. Well-informed circles are divided on this development. One view is that these extremist elements will cause distortions in the electoral process while the other viewpoint is that ultimately all extremists will have to be tamed by bringing them into the mainstream. Which side is correct will be decided by how the national affairs are managed.

The most serious question thrown up by this election is whether the military will be involved in the 2018 elections to the extent witnessed last Sunday. The country can hardly afford that. Besides, the presence of military personnel in polling booths is incompatible with the concept of free and fair elections. It could also affect the army’s image. It would be in the military’s own interest to tell the civilians to carry their cross themselves.

Source: dawn.com/news/1359059/lessons-from-the-by-election


Alternative Cure

By F.S. Aijazuddin

September 21, 2017

THE recent by-election for NA-120 in Lahore has been a contest between a doctor and a patient: Dr Yasmin Rashid a gynaecologist versus Kulsum Nawaz, under treatment for lymphoma in a London hospital. It is only in Pakistan that such shadow boxing at a distance could yield a result. Only here, even before the official results have been announced, could the losers complain of electoral dyspepsia.

NA-120 is a constituency with 321,786 voters. (PML-N numerologists saw the last three digits as a sign.) The turnout (39.4 per cent) ought to have been higher, considering the constituency has 142,144 female voters and both the candidates were women. The verification process could have been neater. Every voter has a CNIC. Each could have been checked from Nadra’s biometric records. Instead, only 30,000 out of the 126,860 who voted were tested biometrically, leaving the glaring loophole (through which the PTI has jumped, claiming that 29,000 suspect votes stand unverified. Such a figure might have been hidden in a landslide; in a majority of only some 14,700 votes, it assumes contentious significance.

The NA-120 result is viewed differently by stalwarts using the same PML-N binoculars. Has Maryam Nawaz, who campaigned on her absentee parents’ behalf, succeeded in retaining her family’s seat, or has she failed for not enhancing his previous majority of almost 40,000 votes?

Maryam’s ‘uncles’ are already giving her gratuitous tutorials.

That Maryam Nawaz has emerged with a political contour of her own is now undeniable. To the press, she is the Ivanka Trump of Pakistani politics, a step away but illumined by the spotlight that surrounds her father. Within the PML-N, she is being compared to that other Daughter of the East — Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

Is there a similarity between them? Yes, for one reason. Maryam Nawaz, like both Benazir Bhutto and Indira Gandhi, has to contend with the dismissive condescension of her ‘uncles’. In Benazir’s case, her uncles were Mumtaz Bhutto, Maulana Kausar Niazi, Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, Jam Sadiq Ali and Abdul Hafeez Pirzada. In Mrs Indira Gandhi’s, the ‘Syndicate’ consisted of K. Kamaraj, Sanjiva Reddy, S. Nijalinagappa, S.K. Patil and Atulya Ghosh.

Maryam Nawaz’s ‘uncles’ have already begun giving her gratuitous tutorials. Saad Rafique — her father’s single-track railways minister — has advised her publicly “to be cautious in her speeches”. Chaudhry Nisar — a loyal acolyte of her father for 33 years — has been part of her father’s inner circle since Maryam was 11 years old. Chaudhry Nisar, no longer the powerful minister of interior, ventilates his pique (some critics call him ‘The Incredible Sulk’) against his mentor Nawaz Sharif privately and with uncharacteristic indiscretion publicly. He now targets the daughter. He discounts any comparisons with Benazir, saying Maryam can consider herself a leader only after, like Benazir, she spends time in prison. (He himself did not.)

He taunts Maryam as only ‘the daughter of Nawaz Sharif’, forgetting perhaps that Benazir Bhutto happened to be only the daughter of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, that Sri Lankan Chandrika Kumaratunga was the daughter of Solomon and Sirimavo Bandaranaike (both prime ministers), and Aung San Suu Kyi the daughter of Aung San (the founder of modern Myanmar).

The results of NA-120 throw into relief once again the questionable efficacy of democracy as a political system in a politically immature, erratic country like ours. Is there any merit in a system that rewards the winning party first past the post and punishes those who were only marginally behind? Should we, simply because we were once a British colony, imitate Westminster when we have neither the Thames nor the Old Bailey nor the monarchy nor an un­­written constitution?

Why do we have to ape the West? Patently we have a speaker whose voice is unhe­eded, a leader of the opposition behind whom (it is happening to Syed Khursheed Shah) the smaller parties are reluctant to line up, and treasury benches when the country’s treasury is in foreign bank accounts, beyond the claws of legal retrieval.

There is an argument to be made for having a system of representative government. Let the seating in the National Assembly be reconfigured into an inclusive circle, not demarcated by divisive aisles. Let each party be given seats in the national cabinet representative of the number of votes it secures in the elections. Like that, policies and decisions would reflect and resolve the needs of all 207 million (and still counting) Pakistanis citizens, not whet the appetites of a lucky coterie.

The COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa has disclosed that he wants enhanced interaction with parliament. He has stopped short of recommending a National Security Council. Since 1978, when he came of age, Gen Bajwa must have been voting in every general election. Like the rest of us, he too must wish our warring parliamentarians would interact occasionally — with each other.

Source: dawn.com/news/1359061/alternative-cure


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/balochistan--disturbing-trends-by-muhammad-akbar-notezai--new-age-islam-s-selection,-21-september-2017/d/112601


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