New Age Islam Edit Bureau
29 September 2017
By Zubeida Mustafa
CPEC’s Daunting Tasks
By Moonis Ahmar
By Anjum Altaf
An Election For Sure
By Asha’ar Rehman
Trump’s Verbal Ruckus at the UN
By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar
Lahore’s Shahbaz Growth Rate
By Dr Pervez Tahir
The Rise of the Right
By Khalid Bhatti
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
September 29, 2017
THE Sindh government’s apathy towards
gender inequity in education is almost proverbial. I was, therefore, taken
aback when the minister for literacy and education in the province quoted the
age-old adage: “When you educate a boy you educate an individual, but when you
educate a girl you educate a family.”
It left me wondering why his party which
has been in power in Sindh for a decade failed to achieve 100 per cent literacy
in the province. Has wisdom been late in dawning on our policymakers?
The occasion for this wise quote was the
inauguration of a gender unit in the education department with the proclaimed
objective of “mainstreaming gender within the education system”. This unit owes
its birth to the push it has received from the Gender Working Group (GWG)
comprising members of civil society (including the Indus Resource Centre) who
are strong advocates of gender parity, and a preponderance of government
functionaries, ostensibly supporters of this cause.
In Sindh, 61pc Of Girls Are Out Of School.
The unit will show positive results, we
have been promised. The IRC’s role will be vital in sustaining the unit and
ensuring it does not stagnate. These measures come at a time when the gender
imbalance in education in Sindh has fallen to an abysmal level.
The Sindh government’s own statistics
related to gender in education are appalling. Female literacy in the province,
already low at 47pc, is only 23pc in the rural areas. But the gender disparity
has even worse implications for the future. In 2015, the net enrolment of girls
in school stood at 40pc compared with 60pc for boys. In the province 61pc of
girls are out of school.
Will funding from Oxfam and
motivational/advisory input from GWG with the IRC as the driving force change
the situation? One can only hope it will. The IRC has carried out many
pro-women projects in the province and has also been working with the
government by adopting its schools, though official grants cannot always be
taken for granted.
Then one may ask, why this scepticism? The
task of implementing the recommendations will be in the government’s own hands.
Given its past performance and the profusion of bodies to promote women’s
rights in the policymaking structure, I find it difficult to feel optimistic.
The panel discussion at the unit’s
inauguration identified a number of essential measures that in principle are
perfect. For instance, the need to revise textbooks and make them gender
sensitive and to build and make accessible more girls’ secondary schools were
mentioned. It was recognised that the numerous women friendly laws that have
been adopted must be implemented and ways and means found to enhance the
strength of female teachers in schools to encourage an increase in the female
net enrolment rate. Toilets and boundary walls in girls’ schools are also
conceded as crucial factors in reducing girls’ dropout rates. But isn’t this
Some of the recommended changes have been
made over a period of time, albeit in fits and starts. What has not been
mentioned in the Sindh Education Sector Plan is the poor state of education —
both in terms of content and pedagogy — that makes education so irrelevant for
the common man.
It hardly enhances the ethical values of
students or even qualifies them for suitable jobs because our system of
education imparts little knowledge or information. Above all, it doesn’t teach
a child to think critically. What incentive is there for parents to send their
children — more so daughters — to school?
A lot of advocacy has been done for
education but when the gains promised do not materialise, the advocacy sounds
hollow and unconvincing. Even the children feel cheated. During many school
visits that I have made in my wanderings in low-income areas, I have found that
children are being pulled out of school to help their families. Girls look
after their younger siblings and do the housework while boys go off to work in
shops and with mechanics. Thus the gender parity improves at the higher level
but school enrolment drops drastically.
This shows how important it is to treat the
development of people as a composite whole. With all social sectors so badly
neglected — be it population, healthcare or any other — focusing on education
alone can be counterproductive, and development becomes a painfully slow and
The Alice in Wonderland scenario that
emerges at the end of the day is of a person running hard but not being able to
make progress. While schools are being built, babies continue to be born in
large numbers and little girls are pulled out of school in droves to look after
them. Of course we always remain short of schools because the school enrolment
ratio goes down while the population growth rate keeps galloping.
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC),
which is termed as a ‘game changer’ and a milestone in unleashing the process
of development in Pakistan is still in its formative phase. Termed as a mega
project of now 56 billion US dollars, CPEC primarily concentrates on energy and
infrastructure development in Pakistan while linking the Gwadar port with the
Chinese province of Xinxiang for trade purposes.
What are the hard tasks under CPEC and how
the adherence of time line to complete various schemes under that gigantic
project can help Pakistan deal with the issues of under-development? Is the
right kind of environment, professionalism, skills and expertise, which is
required for a smooth sailing of a mega project like CPEC, available in
Pakistan? To what extent professional approach is pursued by the Pakistani
counterparts of CPEC to complete their homework on undertaking projects
particularly those related to infrastructure development?
According to the reports, lack of
coordination between federal and provincial governments on setting up special
economic zones and project of 8.2 billion dollars for expanding the main
railway lines particularly Karachi-Peshawar section has caused delays.
Necessary planning and paper work, which is essential to give a practical shape
to CPEC related projects, are facing delays because of bureaucratic hurdles.
Planning Commission, National Economic Council and Central Development Party
face enormous difficulties in coordinating with provincial governments on
preparing feasibility study of special economic zones. When the Chinese teams
visit Pakistan to get the updates on CPEC related projects, the failure on the
part of their Pakistani counterparts to do their homework becomes a source of
embarrassment. It is in this scenario that one needs to examine what are the
issues and challenges which may derail CPEC and cause enormous loss to
Learning from the Chinese and other
successful models of development is imperative for a bright future of Pakistan.
Social structures must be changed by giving priority to the public education
sector, adhering to merit, eradicating feudal and tribal values, and
subscribing to professionalism
Four major challenges exist on the
Pakistani side as far as the hard task of CPEC is concerned. First, lack of
professionalism, which was also mentioned by the In charge Federal Minister for
Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal the other day that “a Chinese team is
coming next month and it is unfortunate that provincial governments have sought
two more months to finalise feasibility studies for their respective economic
zones.” These economic zones are termed as a hub of industrial activities in
different provinces of Pakistan, will create thousands of jobs and attract huge
investments. Professionalism requires sound work ethics, competence and a
better sense of responsibility. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s predicament is the
erosion of work ethics and professionalism in the last four decades resulting
into sharp decline in its exports, low industrial and technological growth.
Second, bad governance and the absence of the rule of law can be termed as
another challenge for CPEC. If various models of development are studied, it
becomes clear that without good governance and the rule of law neither foreign
investment can take place nor one can expect the assurance of quality and
standard in projects and schemes prepared. China emerged as the world’s second
largest economy because of its governance system and adherence to the rule of
law. Pakistan’s lack of focus on issues which are central to ensure good
governance can be termed as a major challenge in taking CPEC to its logical
Third, education and scientific knowledge
play a vital role to strengthen the process of social and human development.
The decline in the standard of education in Pakistan along with the absence of
research culture is a fundamental reason why Pakistan is 147 in Human Development
Index. China, since the last several decades has given priority to education
and science which played a pivotal role in transforming that country from a
backward and illiterate to a modern and industrialised society. The success of
CPEC heavily depends upon quality education and scientific research in Pakistan
so that professional expertise is utilised in projects for better results.
Around 26,000 Pakistani students are currently getting education in China in
different fields and it is expected that upon their return their services can
at best be utilised in the process of development in CPEC and non-CPEC
projects. Fourth, security and law and order are the pre-requisites for the
success of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Although, a special security division
has been raised by the military to protect CPEC and to provide security to
Chinese workers and technicians but a congenial and peaceful environment can
certainly build trust and confidence among foreigners about their stay, travel
and movement in Pakistan.
Pakistan is a country of more than 200
million people with enormous opportunities for development and modernisation of
the country’s industrial, economic and infrastructural base. Yet, qualitative
change in Pakistani society cannot take place only by CPEC as indigenous
efforts and resources for development are essential. China and India are the
models of the policy of self-reliance as the two didn’t depend on foreign aid
for their development as they were confident that with their expertise and mobilising
their own resources they can achieve success. Whereas, since its inception as a
new state in August 1947 till today, Pakistan’s economy is import and aid
driven which relegated the country’s position in social and human development.
The daunting task of CPEC is not only to
deal with the challenges but also to make sure that within the stipulated
period of time projects are completed with proper quality and standard.
Learning from the Chinese and other successful models of development is
imperative for a bright future of Pakistan. For that matter, social structures
of Pakistan must be changed by giving priority to good quality education to its
children and youth, adherence to merit, eradicating feudal and tribal system,
subscribing to proper work ethics and pursuing a professional approach. Is the
leadership of Pakistan capable of dealing with the challenges of development
particularly those related to CPEC projects?
As long as corruption, nepotism, compromise
on merit, culture patronisation and laziness looms large, one cannot expect
Pakistan to get even closer to developed societies. As rightly said by the
founder of communist China Mao Tse Tung that, “a journey of thousand miles
begins with a single step.” Pakistan must first take the first step to achieve
the goals of development, modernisation and progress by having a leadership
which is selfless, honest and a doer like in case of China and other successful
September 29, 2017
COULD it be argued that there are good and
bad extremists just as there are good and bad Muslims? If so, the proposal to
identify extremists in universities might be misplaced.
Extremism has become conflated with violence
and terrorism which is a partial interpretation. The dictionary defines
extremism as “belief in and support for ideas that are very far from what most
people consider correct or reasonable” which widens the scope for a more
Put that neutral definition together with
the observation of Bertrand Russell that “the tyranny of the majority is a very
real danger” and that “it is a mistake to suppose that the majority is
necessarily right” and one can argue that almost all human progress has been
due to ‘extremists’ who have challenged the moribund ideas of majorities. Think
Extremism has become conflated with
violence and terrorism.
It is possible, of course, that extremism
could lead to poor judgement with negative consequences. Mr Jinnah’s position
in Dhaka that Urdu would be the sole national language of Pakistan was arguably
extremist and one that contributed to subsequent problems. However, no one
would accuse Mr Jinnah of evil intentions. Mitigating errors of judgement calls
for inclusive decision-making, not surveillance by intelligence agencies.
The example above should remind us that
extremism is often not an individual attribute but is contextually determined —
the position regarding Urdu could have been mainstream opinion in one part of
the country but a fringe one in the other. Consider another example, the
position on Creation where the mainstream view in Pakistan accords with the
story of Adam and Eve. If a mainstream Pakistani migrated to Europe he would
become there the holder of a relatively extreme position. Would it be warranted
for European intelligence agencies to interrogate his ‘extremism’ when nothing
else changed in his personality?
lobalisation has exacerbated this problem
of contextual extremism. In the West, beards and turbans have become symbols of
extremism, while bikinis and bars are considered likewise in other parts of the
world. The clash of civilisations reflects in part the harmless divergence
among different mainstream opinions.
In the face of these arguments, many
discussants concede the point that private views, however extreme, are not
problematic per se. In their view the problem emerges when some individuals try
to impose their extreme views on others. This suggests that the problem is not
extremism of one’s views but intolerance of those of others.
This is a serious concern if true because
the entire ethos of the educational system in Pakistan is built around
bolstering the conviction that we are right and those who disagree with us are
wrong. Every unsanctioned opinion is liable to severe punishment. The state
also propagates the extremist sentiment that every citizen should be prepared
to die for the nation and destroy its enemy.
An apocryphal story of a teenager
apprehended crossing the border in 1965 to annihilate infidels is telling in
this regard. Asked to identify the source of his extreme views he ascribed them
all to watching PTV. Hannah Arendt had warned that such “commitment can easily
carry you to a point where you no longer think”. Only a heavy dose of
self-reflection of the type exemplified by Bulleh Shah and Kabir can reverse
the trend towards mindlessness.
This lethal problem of intolerance cannot
be solved by surveillance of students but by a renewed examination of state commitments
and the realisation that many agents of the state are themselves extremely
intolerant. It is ironic for a set of agents fostering intolerance to start
combing campuses for the victims of their efforts.
A different perspective on extremism holds that
it is worrisome only when it engenders violence. This prompts two reflections.
First, that those holding extreme views rarely resort to mass violence in their
individual capacity. Individuals act in politically motivated ways more when
they are part of groups espousing violent aims — no surprise that violent
actions are immediately claimed by groups like the militant Islamic State group
or the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Putting an end to such violence requires
proscribing the groups and not pursuing individual extremists which is an
impossible task with a huge margin for error. When a state leaves such groups
alone allowing them to morph under various guises while claiming to ferret out
individuals, it loses the claim to credibility.
Second, one must confront another conundrum
obscured by the blanket castigation of violent extremism. Recall the phrase
that characterised the 1964 US presidential campaign of Senator Goldwater:
“Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice.” Clearly, Goldwater did not consider
extremism to be an unambiguously negative phenomenon nor was he averse to
violence if warranted by the situation. Many others would recall that both
Begin and Mandela started as individuals with ‘extremist’ views, joined groups
with ‘violent’ aims, and propagated ‘terrorism’. Yet, both went on to lead
their countries and were honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize.
One can reconcile with such extremism only
if the focus on groups with violent aims includes states that use violence to
oppress their own or foreign citizens. It is hard to justify passivity against
the depredations of such states — “Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no
virtue” was the second half of Goldwater’s pronouncement. The glaring case at
present is the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Unless there are global mechanisms
to prevent such state-sanctioned atrocities, non-state groups will cite the precedent
of Begin and Mandela to resist and the world will be in no moral position to
criticise their violent extremism.
The bottom line of this reflection is that
intolerance not extremism is the major threat to society; that intolerance is
the inevitable outcome of state-sponsored indoctrination in education; that
this indoctrination can only be countered by a tradition of self-reflection
that includes within its ambit one’s most cherished beliefs; that effectively
restoring social harmony requires proscribing groups that espouse violent aims
and these can include states themselves. The surveillance of individuals by the
state, here or elsewhere, is the wrong prescription.
SOMEONE has called for an early general
election. Someone we don’t really have much trust in. It is ‘natural’ for many
of us here to dismiss his talk as the roar of a perpetually dangerous simpleton
who kind of monopolises naïveté.
The demand is found to be unpalatable in a
country that, to put it mildly, doesn’t quite have an ideal functioning
democracy. This country overshoots the target by some distance.
Indeed, by some measures, the type of
democracy we are practising in our beloved homeland right now would be placed
on a plane much higher than your usual ideal democracy. Where else would we
find a sitting minister forced to divide his time between his ministerial
functions and encounters with the trial courts? Where else do you get to see a
minister doubling as an accused, refusing to resign for the greater good of
An early election could be a much-needed
stopover for the people to gather their thoughts before they trudge on the road
there’s no escape from.
The kind of scenes we have been able to
enact at the raw age of 70 would dwarf the most established, ideal systems put
together by other countries. We are specialists in our own kind of democratic
system and on that count, all those
adventurers and dull crusaders who have over time invested in an indigenous
model, our own little kingdom, stand vindicated.
Like all good things, our little
supra-ideal system comes with its own directions for use and its own minor
clarifications. Some of us have been heard saying that, while Ishaq Dar may
embody our aspirations for distinction, right at this moment he may have his
own issues to settle.
For one, the futuristic minister is thought
by many to be too involved with the legal cases against him at present to spare
any time for his job as finance minister. Not to mention the extra sentiment he
has to put in at various fora as a well-wisher of the family he openly owes
The theory is that he might be better able
to fulfil his more urgent duties as a member of the coterie as opposed to a
member of the cabinet. Mr Dar, however, is not resigning, in order (as we all
remember by rote now) to save and secure democracy, which (experience has
taught us) requires us to be patient and navigate mindlessly through sea after
sea of confusion.
There’s a lot of confusion out there as
Mian Nawaz Sharif — disqualified but not quite disposed of — walks ahead
looking for his own version of justice. He is moving forward, sometimes with
the daredevilry of Bruce Willis’ character John McClane in the Die Hard film
franchise, and at other times with the resignation of a lamb about to be put to
the sword. Through various moods and phases, he has so far managed to defy the
deadline set for his eventual and final demise. Yet he has had little influence
when it comes to providing relief to the people who have been kept hostage by
Pakistan’s brand of tension-filled politics.
Signs of distress are all around.
Journalists who want to gauge the extent of uncertainty caused by the removal
of a prime minister and the ad hoc arrangements put in place since come up with
far from reassuring assessments. There is a serious lack of direction at
various levels of government inside the country, even while a stand-in prime
minister is able to spell out our resolve to the international community at the
UN with some gusto.
By some accounts, not all the initiatives
undertaken by the Sharif government can run with the same old fervour now that
Mr Sharif has been ousted and his party is faced with an uncertain future.
Political disputes, on the other hand, are resurfacing with a severity akin to
a political climate in the run up to a general election. And yet, so many here
choose to boo the man who has asked for a snap election.
There are problems. Not least of them is
the issue of electoral reforms that have been delayed — why and at whose behest
being two pertinent questions that must be asked of parliament and the
government. That is where the national focus must now be, even if the election
is going to be held on schedule next year. But to cite lack of electoral law
reforms as a reason why an early election cannot be held is a little unfair.
The primary aim should be to pull the people out of their current state of
uncertainty. The laws will continue to evolve, in the next term of the assembly
if not the current one.
The biggest dispute arising out of the 2013
election has to be resolved. Along the way, it has been complicated by Panama
and some other, comparably minor elements — but the parties remain the same, by
and large. It is the Sharifs versus Imran Khan, which obviously leads to
projections about who is likely to gain and by how much in the event of a snap
election. While these estimates of success at the polls are all legitimate,
some thought must be given to the effects all this political wrangling and lack
of resolution on some basic political questions has had on the minds of
It could well be that this country has to
go through this experience of intense, relentless, round-the-clock politicking.
A general election may add to this intensity, but that could also be of some
relief to people subjected to sensational, unending debate without answers. The
election could be a stopover — a much-needed one — for the people to gather
their thoughts before they trudge on the road there’s no escape from.
Let’s forget for a moment which party will
gain or lose ground. Let’s for once concentrate on the proposal, and not so
much on the person behind it. Let’s call for a general election as early as
When Donald Trump speaks, he shakes and
rattles the world with his narrative. He did silence the listeners when
addressing for the first time at the UN General Assembly. Perhaps his rise to
the echelon of power as the President of the United States will keep Washington
on its toes to defend itself from any reaction coming from countries, which
President Trump openly talks about. The President must have known that among
all the countries the US is confronting, North Korea is a problem child, which
cannot be restricted, constrained or controlled.
When the previous US Presidents, George W.
Bush and Barack Obama, invaded and attacked Afghanistan, much blame was placed
on Washington for sending the US troops into a fight, which they could have
never won. Termed as an ‘Unwinnable War’, the US troops had to withdraw from
Afghanistan with the US flag on half-mast. For the US mission in Afghanistan,
it was a decision that boomeranged at Washington with deep impact. Although the
US will never go into a direct war with North Korea, a cold war could occur
having a chance of one in a thousand. Even a cold war would be excessively
expensive for both countries that will create crevices and splits in regional
allies, hence shifting and fluctuating global diplomacy and affairs to great
However, what President Trump expressed
during his speech at the UN General Assembly has become the talk of the world.
You call it an act of defiance or blatant ignorance that the President of the
US — the most powerful man in the world — created a ruckus of words at the
United Nation. President Trump threatened to ‘totally destroy’ North Korea
during his pugnacious address. He could have used better, more sophisticated or
diplomatically feasible words to address North Korea’s belligerent actions.
However, he may have certainly added fuel to the flame that is burning in
Pyongyang, with its direction at Washington.
President Trump threatened to ‘totally
destroy’ North Korea during his pugnacious address. He could have used better,
more sophisticated or diplomatically feasible words to address North Korea’s
Furthermore, President Trump gave a new
moniker to North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-Un, calling him ‘Rocket Man.’
Perhaps it is for the first and only time inside the UN General Assembly when
someone has referred to a President by a nickname. Interestingly, President
Trump’s speech was somewhat akin to the State of the Union Address former US
President George W. Bush delivered nearly fifteen years ago in 2002. In fact,
George W. Bush first used the term ‘axis of evil’, which later became
associated with governments that harbour terrorism.
Instead of creating an inspiring example to
be followed by other world leaders, President Trump seems to be adamant at
following the footsteps of past US presidents who brought to Washington wars
and battles, which became unwinnable. The US is still paying the price of its
mission in Afghanistan and Iraq, which has also destabilised many parts of
South Asia and the Middle East respectively.
However, while President Trump was openly
bashing North Korea, he — to some extent — challenged the world in confronting
North Korea. President Trump said, “The United States has great strength and
patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no
choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket man is on a suicide mission
for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able,
but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all
about. That’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do.” Never
before has any US President presented a robust and somewhat aggressive speech
in the United Nations. Furthermore, President Trump also discussed Iran’s
nuclear deal it made with the US during Obama’s regime.
Considered a key agreement between the two
countries, which is also supported by many UN members, President Trump
considers it a waste, as mentioned in his speech. “The Iran deal was one of the
worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.
Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think
you’ve heard the last of it. Believe me.” On what basis did, President Trump
opines this deal to be useless? If he is opposing this deal, he may have to
face tough questions from Washington’s allies who support it.
China, too, has entered the equation and is
desperately trying to ease the tension between Washington and Pyongyang. It is
yet to be seen if President Trump views China’s diplomatic mediation as an
insult since China has never been in the US President’s good books. Moreover,
the United Kingdom and China, members of the UN Security Council, could join
forces in compelling North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions. North Korean
leader Kim Jong-Un may not be easily compelled to withdraw his decisions and
President Trump will never regret his words or actions. Perhaps two bohemians,
President Trump and Kim Jong-Un ruling their countries will never bow down to
anyone. In that case, the world will suffer.
Between 2010-11 and 2014-15, the annual
average GDP growth rate in Pakistan was 3.9 per cent. It was 5 per cent for
Punjab. However, the GDP growth rate of Lahore was as high as 6.7 per cent. In
other words, Lahore is leading the growth of the province as well as the
country. It is an economy of over a trillion rupees or around 11.5 per cent of
the national economy. The share in Punjab is 19 per cent. These are the finding
What explains the rapidly rising economy of
Lahore? Is it what the Chinese call Shahbaz speed turning into Shahbaz growth
rate? The common perception is that Lahore has enjoyed more than its share of
public investment. This certainly is a factor, but there is a lot more that
comes out of the study. Industrial sector growth in Lahore was only 3.3 per
cent, lower than even the rest of Punjab’s growth rate of 4.8 per cent.
Official policy as well as business preference is to move manufacturing away
from the congestion and overcrowding in Lahore. Even so, the manufacturing
subsector displayed a growth rate of 5.4 per cent, higher than Punjab and
Pakistan. The agriculture sector experienced a lower growth of 2.2 per cent.
Describing the sector as agriculture in the case of Lahore is a misnomer. With
a share of around 4 per cent, it is largely composed of livestock and other
non-crop activities. The latest census also confirms that Lahore is now totally
urban. In 1998, 17.8 per cent of the population of Lahore district was rural.
It is now negligible in a population of 11.13 million. In the intercensal
period, the city district added 5.98 million to its urban population compared
to 5.57 million in Karachi. Partly definitional, but mostly the development is
associated with the magnet that Lahore has become for those seeking profits,
jobs and education in relative peace, not just from adjoining districts, but
all over the country.
Services, therefore, has become the largest
sector of the economy of Lahore. From 78.2 per cent in 2010-11, the contribution
of services rose to 81 per cent in 2014-15. The annual average growth rate was
7.7 per cent. The largest subsector in services in Punjab and Pakistan is
wholesale and retail trade. In Lahore, it is the second largest with annual
growth of only 0.9 per cent. Low share and growth of the commodity sector is at
work here. The largest subsector is transport, storage and communications with
a contribution of 37.1 per cent. It enjoyed a healthy growth rate of 9.3 per
cent. IT, telecommunications and passenger transport are the most dynamic
components. But the highest growth of 12.3 per cent occurred in housing
services, a subsector contributing 12 per cent of the services sector. A
related subsector of the industrial sector, construction, grew even higher at
12.9 per cent. Together, the double-digit growth of construction and housing
services portray a massive urban sprawl.
In 1927, Patras Bokhari had fun in Lahore
ka jughrafia: “Beyond the four walls of Lahore also happens to be Lahore. And
day by day it is happening more and more. Experts estimate that Lahore will be
the name of a province in 10-20 years, with Punjab as its capital.” Are we, 90
The Rise Of The Right
The results of the September 24 federal
elections in Germany sent a wave of shock across Europe. The partners of the
Grand Coalition, the right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Chancellor
Angela Merkel and the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) suffered losses
and gained fewer votes.
Overall, the election results show that
Germany cannot escape the processes that have affected the rest of Europe.
There is an increasing polarisation and political fragmentation. There has also
been a melting away of the traditional support for the two major traditional
political blocs – the CDU/CSU and the SDP.
In the good old days of the old federal
republic, these blocs would score 80 percent to 90 percent of the votes cast
between them. But this figure has been reduced to an overall share of just over
53 percent and has led to the emergence of the anti-immigration, Islamophobic
and extreme right-wing party, the Alternative for Deutschland (AfD).
The Left Party (Die Linke) and the Greens
made modest gains in the elections. Both parties have failed to put forward a
clear, anti-capitalist, radical left-wing and pro-working class and youth
programme to attract a wider segment of workers and youth. The Left Party could
have pulled the brakes on the AfD’s march on the basis of a radical programme.
The extreme right-wing AfD emerges as the
true winner of this election. The AfD is the first extreme right-wing racist
party elected to the German parliament since World War II. While the AfD’s entry
into parliament was expected, the size of its vote shocked many despite its
recent recovery in the opinion polls. It jumped in as the third largest party
with nearly six million votes – 12.6 percent of the total number of votes.
The surge in the AfD’s support – that has
increased from 811,000 votes in 2013 – is a sign of the unrest and
dissatisfaction that has developed among various sections across the country
despite the recent economic growth. The major AfD strongholds lie in the east
where deindustrialisation – which has taken place since the dismantling of the
planned economy in the former East Germany – has left behind a large rust belt
and demoralised the local population.
The ruling CDU/CSU lost 8.5 percent of the
votes and fell to 33 percent of the combined votes. This is the lowest share of
the votes for the CDU/CSU since 1949. The Social Democrats lost 5.2 percent to
end up with 20.5 percent. This is not only the lowest vote since Second World
War but is comparable only with the worst results of 1890 and 1932. The extreme
right-wing AfD and the pro-business and free market economy Free Democratic
Party (FDP) are the real winners of this election as both increased their votes
by 7.9 percent and six percent, respectively.
The outcome of this election has
undoubtedly weakened the political position of Chancellor Merkel. The SDP has
already announced its plan to sit in the opposition and the AfD is not in the
mood to join the coalition government. Merkel left with Greens, the Free
Democrats and its Bavarian sister CSU to form the coalition government.
Chancellor Merkel, who has been in power
for 12 years and is likely to hang on to another four-year term, had hoped that
she and her party alliance of the CDU and the Bavarian CSU would easily win another
victory around the 40-percent mark. The ruling class would have preferred a
coalition of the traditional bourgeois parties – the CDU/CSU and the FDP. But
in the end – due to the decline in support for the CDU/CSU – this coalition
failed to win a majority.
This election failed to produce the results
that the German bourgeoisie had hoped for. The German capitalist class wanted a
stable, strong, pro-business and more right-wing coalition government to carry
out further cuts on wages, pensions, the welfare system and the liberalisation
of the economy. The weak, chaotic and unstable coalition government will not be
able to serve this purpose.
Both the Greens and the Free Democrats will
push for concessions from Merkel. Both parties represent different programmes
and ideologies. Both parties dislike each other and will fight to gain more
influence in the coalition to satisfy their voters. It will not be an easy task
to put together such contrasting coalitions to work smoothly.
The SDP suffered a humiliating defeat. The
traditional social democracy is in serious trouble. Jeremy Corbyn is the only
exception in this Europe-wide phenomenon. Corbyn revived the Labour Party on a
radical left-wing programme in opposition to the austerity, neoliberalism and
free market onslaught. The social democratic parties across Europe moved to the
right and gradually embraced the free market economy and neoliberal economic
policies to dismantle the welfare state. The SDP did the same and launched the
most vicious attacks on the wages, working conditions, unemployment benefits
and welfare programmes between 1998 and 2005.
The result of Schroder’s ‘reforms’ was –
and is – a massive casualisation of labour in Germany and attacks on the
unemployed. Over a quarter of the workforce is now in some form of casual
employment. Many of them receive wages that place them just about on or below
the poverty line. A majority of them need more than one job to survive or have
to rely on additional social security to pay their rent. This is, by the way,
the main explanation for the low unemployment rate and the export boom in the
German economy. The poor population and low-paid workers are increasingly
dependent on the free lunches offered by welfare organisations and volunteers
across Germany. These are the conditions of the low-paid workers of the
strongest and richest economy in Europe.
The SDP’s leadership continued with the
same right-wing policies and failed to offer a real alternative to the working
class and the poor. The SDP is heading towards the direction of other social
democratic parties in Greece, France, the Netherlands and elsewhere who have
been badly affected by their policies of carrying out counter-reforms.