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Pakistan Press (31 Aug 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Superstition and Society By Kamila Hyat: New Age Islam's Selection, 31 August 2017





New Age Islam Edit Bureau

31 August 2017

Superstition and Society

By Kamila Hyat

De-Weaponise Pakistan

By Sarmad Ali

Afghanistan — Churchillian Ungrateful Volcano?

By Harlan Ullman

Rhetoric And Reality

By Tariq Shahzad

The End Of Bhuttoism

By Ammar Ali Jan

To Trump, With Love

By Abdul Basit

A Disenchanted Relationship

By Mushtaq Rajpar

Women’s Economic Empowerment

By Dr Shenila Khoja-Moolji

Census, Future And Girls’ Education

By Muhammad Hamid Zaman

Civilian Supremacy: Earned Not Negotiated

By Zulfiquar Rao

Populating With Purpose

By Syed Rizwan Mehboob

Pakistan’s Diaspora — Untapped Potential

By Adam Weinstein

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau

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Superstition and Society

By Kamila Hyat

August 31, 2017

The events triggered in India by the conviction of the maverick spiritual head of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh, on rape charges have demonstrated the extraordinary hold that superstition, blind belief and the power of self-proclaimed holy men still have over millions of people.

In a country that claims it is poised to become a leader of the world within the next few decades, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets in various towns of Haryana and New Delhi following the verdict delivered by a special court based on charges levelled against the spiritual leader in 2002. Rather than condemning the act of rape committed against two female devotees, thousands sided with the man who had declared himself head of the sect in 1990 and who was known for his flashy lifestyle that involved participating in rock concerts, films and a love for bling.

He had also accumulated a large amount of wealth. At least 36 people were killed as the police and troops attempted to control his followers who went on a rampage. They destroyed cars and property and even attempted to burn government buildings. This is hardly a comforting glimpse of a country that houses one of the largest populations in the world. It demonstrates just how little has been achieved in terms of breaking away from medievalism and irrational ideas.

There are, of course, other gurus across India who have a large following and, in some cases, have committed crimes of one kind or the other. The tradition arises from the number of religions that find their home in India and from a history that is based on saints – the other people who draw in followers.

Perhaps a lack of faith in any modern system, which can bring them a better life, continues to draw people towards such men and women. This is certainly a Subcontinental phenomenon. Similar holy men or pirs operate in our country as well. They perform rites, claim to have abilities to heal the sick or offer spiritual leadership on all forms of personal, professional or business matters. We know that our top political leaders have consulted such pirs on key occasions to seek guidance and help.

While holy men play a benevolent or even beneficial role in some cases by offering emotional help, others seem capable of inflicting the worst forms of injury. In April, a custodian called in devotees at a shrine close to Sargodha and proceeded to hammer or violently stab them to death without anyone apparently attempting to stop the killing spree or call on others for help. A pair of devotees who escaped did finally report the incident to the police. As a result, an investigation was opened into how the shrine had been built on a piece of private land and what motivated the murder of so many people within a short period of time.

The same custodian had also been responsible for other violent events in the past. These include the brutal torture of people who continued to visit him in addition to beating, burning and stripping others in order to ‘heal’ them of various diseases or seek a cure for family members. Such practices are not uncommon at other places, with spiritual healers responsible for rites of exorcism that involve lashings people with leather straps, sticks and other forms of terrible violence. People have died as a result of these practices. Over the years, there have been multiple charges of sexual assault at the abodes of these pirs.

Despite the obvious dangers inherent in these practices, the pirs or other faith-healers obviously fill a niche in society. Perhaps they meet the needs of people who have nowhere else to turn for help when they run into personal or health problems.

But there is something stronger than helplessness that drives blind belief. Even the rich and the wealthy frequently visit holy men or women and insist that they hold magical powers, which can deliver something akin to miracles. This history of superstition and worship goes back a long way. But it is worth considering how it shapes society.

One of the ways in which it does this is by fostering the idea among people that they on their own can achieve very little. Instead of turning to their own strengths, gathering together other people in a similar situation or even seeking scientific help from doctors, people believe only magic and special mysterious powers will be of assistance to them.

These ideas appear to hold people back from making more fervent attempts to organise their own lives or come together in groups to achieve goals. There have been a number of studies about this phenomenon in India and the impact it has on the lives of people who refuse to believe that they themselves hold power in their own hands and can exercise this through the use of reason and by organising themselves in various forums such as a farmer’s commune.

The pirs, who have existed through much of the Subcontinent’s history, have drawn their power from the need of the people to find some means to rescue themselves without turning to whatever resources they possess themselves. To do so, these pirs use charisma and, in some cases, elaborate backdrop settings against which to pose. In other instances, they opt for deliberate displays of abject poverty and use every psychological prop they can find.

Their mastery of this art gives them the ability to influence thousands, sometimes even millions, of people. There are, of course, many pirs who use this for the general good and whose words do not aim to destroy or cause pain. But many others utilise the role that they hold in society for dubious purposes. Fortunes have been built by holy men and ruthless methods are put into play to protect their place in society.

It is sometimes difficult to imagine a society without gurus or pirs. Some connect themselves to orthodox religious beliefs in one way or the other while others deviate from it.

The man who many Indians hope will remain behind bars for a significant number of years was believed to have ordered murder and used severe brutality to build the group that stood around him. Others have done the same. It is difficult to know how to challenge such individuals or groups that act as cults.

All citizens have a right to freedom and to make choices. But given the manner in which so many holy men prey on ignorance and illiteracy, there is also a need for a stronger sense of awareness of the dangers that lurk at  shrines and the abodes of those who make claims that they can achieve the impossible.

Desperation and helplessness drives many to these shrines. People are simply convinced that they can offer wisdom from beyond the world. The mystic sufi traditions of the Subcontinent have, in some cases, been abused by false pirs. Others carry them forward. Awareness needs to be built into society so that we do not see the madness that descended over northern India and has, in the past, been seen within our own country in one form or the other.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/227176-Superstition-and-society

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De-Weaponise Pakistan

By Sarmad Ali

31-Aug-17

In the wake of rapid of terrorism and unrest across Pakistan, the need of an hour is to de-weaponise Pakistan. The newly elected PM of Pakistan — in his maiden address — had shown his eagerness to introduce laws relating to de-weaponisation of Pakistan. His eagerness could be applauded and should also be welcomed. To restore peace and deter violence across Pakistan, the policies and laws on de-weaponisation need to be followed honesty with full force across the board. It is also relevant to state that the authorities should cancel all licenses issued by it to citizens for keeping prohibited and non-prohibited weapons in last ten years, in order to re-verify and renew these licenses.

Furthermore, the Government must also recover all weapons, prohibited and non-prohibited, and take them into custody. It is here pertinent to state that having a possession of any sort is prohibited in Australia, UK, China and Japan. Pakistan could follow a policy plan which was introduced in 1966 by Australia which was buyback policy plan for the country’s de-weaponisation, and since then, the ratio of crime has been decreasing. It is a great successful example of a de-weaponsation program.

Despite the fact that Article 256 of the Constitution of Pakistan forbids private armies in the country, there are thousands of private armies which the rich and influential have kept for themselves. In Sindh and Punjab, members of legislative assemblies — and I include tycoons as well — allow their private security guards to equipped with lethal and dangerous weapons. It is important for the government to introduce stringent measures to ban the unauthorized production, illicit trafficking, and possession, use and display of arms and weapons in order to control the unleashed criminal activities that are being carried out in the province explicitly and without any fear of punishment. This measure is essential for restoring peace, tranquillity, sanity and public order in the province.

It is important for the government to introduce stringent measures to ban the unauthorised production, illicit trafficking, and possession, use and display of arms and weapons in order to control the unleashed criminal activities that are being carried out in the province explicitly and without any fear of punishment

In Punjab, the Punjab Arms Ordinance 1965 was previously known as The Pakistan Arms Ordinance. Its name was amended with the Punjab Arms Amendment Act 2014. In 2015, Punjab Arms Amendment Ordinance 2015 (III of 2015) was passed which made some drastic changes in this legislation. Previously, the offence of carrying unlicensed arm was punished with “imprisonment for a term which may extend to 7 years or with fine or with both” but after this latest amendment now the punishment for carrying unlicensed arms under section 13(a) is “Imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than two years and which may extend to 7 years and with fine”.The practice in the courts regarding offences under 13/20/65 is to punish the offender with minor fine but after this latest amendment now court is bound by law to give imprisonment of minimum of 2 years along with fine. This amendment of 2015 is made due to deteriorating law and order situation in country along with rising threat of terrorism. This law should be practiced effectively in Punjab so that general public get aware of it and take it seriously. Similar laws are in effect in other parts of the country, and those laws should also be administered effectively by the law enforcing agencies.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/31-Aug-17/de-weaponise-pakistan

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Afghanistan — Churchillian Ungrateful Volcano?

 By Harlan Ullman

31-Aug-17

Five years less than a century ago, when Winston Churchill headed Britain's Colonial Office, what is now called the Middle East was in as much turmoil as it is today. Churchill, confronted with a losing war in Mesopotamia, turned the campaign in Iraq over to the Royal Flying Corps, arguing that it should use mustard and other poison gas, as the best means to defeat the enemy. In a letter to then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Churchill declared Iraq an "ungrateful volcano" that was costing HMG millions with nothing in return.

Afghanistan may be today's 'ungrateful volcano' although that appellation is not uncontested. In outlining his new strategy for Afghanistan, President Donald Trump, no doubt was very much influenced by his Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor, both with extensive experience in that country. The president declared that the United States will remain 'as long as it takes' to win and has authorised the deployment of 4-5,000 additional American forces in conjunction with more troops from NATO allies.

Whatever one thinks about this president, Afghanistan offers no good choices. Least worst is perhaps the better metric. Clearly, as promised in the campaign, the US could withdraw. Withdrawal does not mean that some residual forces could not remain to train the Afghan army and police and conduct selective counter-terrorism operations. But in this case, Afghanistan's future would reside solely on the ability of its government to govern all its people.

The second bad choice was not merely to remain but to deploy more forces. The arguments for this choice were clear. American withdrawal would lead to the collapse of the Kabul government and a victory for the Taliban probably further destabilising the region. Afghanistan could serve as a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in attacking the West. Unfortunately, despite moving to a "conditions based" framework for assessing future US policy and calling for Afghanistan (and Pakistan) to do more, to succeed whatever that means, this commitment will take decades.

The aim of any strategy must be diplomatic negotiations between the government and Taliban forces that lead to a political settlement. The White House believes this strategy will achieve this outcome. And while a withdrawal that incurs much higher risk might also produce a diplomatic solution sooner, both Republicans and Democrats would berate any president for cutting and running.

The harsh reality is that no strategy other than an even larger buildup and a commitment of three or four decades will work. And I doubt that solution would be effective. Sixteen years of errors and mistakes cannot be overcome by military means. And nation building likewise is a false promise. Afghanistan will succeed or fail based on its politics, culture, society and actions. History, dating back to Alexander the Great and subsequent military campaigns by Britain, Russia and then the Soviet Union, cannot be ignored. Those defeats were not accidental.

Unfortunately, despite moving to a ‘conditions based’ framework for assessing future US policy and calling for Afghanistan (and Pakistan) to do more to succeed, whatever that means, this commitment will take decades

The exclusion of Iran; a constitution modelled on Western democracies that attempted to centralize power in Kabul in a country that had existed on a decentralised political basis; corruption; drugs; the absence of a unified legal and justice system; and the unworkable sharing of power between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival and competitor, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, are some of the reasons that explain why Afghanistan is an 'ungrateful volcano.'

Assuming Western casualties remain low and the expense does not become a drain on already tight budgets, this war will continue for years. The most optimistic hope, and it is a hope, is that the warring parties will become exhausted. Then some form of compromise might be reached.

Still, this is an active volcano whose lava will spill over. The demarche to Pakistan by the administration is regarded in Islamabad as a de facto declaration of war. The lever of a US tilt to India will exacerbate and not calm Pakistan's paranoia about its giant neighbour. Iran, Russia and China will follow their own interests in Afghanistan. Indeed, Russia will draw a certain ironic pleasure in supporting the Taliban as the US did for the Mujahedin.

At some stage the US will withdraw. The fear that Afghanistan is the preferred training grounds for jihadis to attack the West will prove superficial. Africa, the Middle East and sadly Europe are riper and more fertile places where al Qaeda and the Islamic State can operate. And the ungrateful volcano will continue to erupt.

Eventually the fear that Afghanistan is the preferred training ground for jihadis to attack the West will prove superficial. Africa, the Middle East and sadly Europe are riper and more fertile places where al Qaeda and the Islamic State can operate

Five years less than a century ago, when Winston Churchill headed Britain's Colonial Office, what is now called the Middle East was in as much turmoil as it is today. Churchill, confronted with a losing war in Mesopotamia, turned the campaign in Iraq over to the Royal Flying Corps, arguing that it should use mustard and other poison gas, as the best means to defeat the enemy. In a letter to then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, Churchill declared Iraq an "ungrateful volcano" that was costing HMG millions with nothing in return.

Afghanistan may be today's 'ungrateful volcano' although that appellation is not uncontested. In outlining his new strategy for Afghanistan, President Donald Trump, no doubt was very much influenced by his Secretary of Defense and National Security Advisor, both with extensive experience in that country. The president declared that the United States will remain 'as long as it takes' to win and has authorised the deployment of 4-5,000 additional American forces in conjunction with more troops from NATO allies.

Whatever one thinks about this president, Afghanistan offers no good choices. Least worst is perhaps the better metric. Clearly, as promised in the campaign, the US could withdraw. Withdrawal does not mean that some residual forces could not remain to train the Afghan army and police and conduct selective counter-terrorism operations. But in this case, Afghanistan's future would reside solely on the ability of its government to govern all its people.

The second bad choice was not merely to remain but to deploy more forces. The arguments for this choice were clear. American withdrawal would lead to the collapse of the Kabul government and a victory for the Taliban probably further destabilising the region. Afghanistan could serve as a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in attacking the West. Unfortunately, despite moving to a "conditions based" framework for assessing future US policy and calling for Afghanistan (and Pakistan) to do more, to succeed whatever that means, this commitment will take decades.

The aim of any strategy must be diplomatic negotiations between the government and Taliban forces that lead to a political settlement. The White House believes this strategy will achieve this outcome. And while a withdrawal that incurs much higher risk might also produce a diplomatic solution sooner, both Republicans and Democrats would berate any president for cutting and running.

The harsh reality is that no strategy other than an even larger buildup and a commitment of three or four decades will work. And I doubt that solution would be effective. Sixteen years of errors and mistakes cannot be overcome by military means. And nation building likewise is a false promise. Afghanistan will succeed or fail based on its politics, culture, society and actions. History, dating back to Alexander the Great and subsequent military campaigns by Britain, Russia and then the Soviet Union, cannot be ignored. Those defeats were not accidental.

The exclusion of Iran; a constitution modelled on Western democracies that attempted to centralize power in Kabul in a country that had existed on a decentralised political basis; corruption; drugs; the absence of a unified legal and justice system; and the unworkable sharing of power between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival and competitor, Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah, are some of the reasons that explain why Afghanistan is an 'ungrateful volcano.'

Assuming Western casualties remain low and the expense does not become a drain on already tight budgets, this war will continue for years. The most optimistic hope, and it is a hope, is that the warring parties will become exhausted. Then some form of compromise might be reached.

Still, this is an active volcano whose lava will spill over. The demarche to Pakistan by the administration is regarded in Islamabad as a de facto declaration of war. The lever of a US tilt to India will exacerbate and not calm Pakistan's paranoia about its giant neighbour. Iran, Russia and China will follow their own interests in Afghanistan. Indeed, Russia will draw a certain ironic pleasure in supporting the Taliban as the US did for the Mujahedin.

At some stage the US will withdraw. The fear that Afghanistan is the preferred training grounds for Jihadis to attack the West will prove superficial. Africa, the Middle East and sadly Europe are riper and more fertile places where al Qaeda and the Islamic State can operate. And the ungrateful volcano will continue to erupt.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/31-Aug-17/afghanistan-churchillian-ungrateful-volcano

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Rhetoric and Reality

By Tariq Shahzad

August 31, 2017

The political situation in Pakistan has been tense since the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif. During his GT Road rally, Sharif asked the people: “The two hundred million people of this country are the real owners of this country. A few cannot over rule them. Did you not send Nawaz to Islamabad after making him prime minister?” he asked. “But he was thrown out by someone else. Is this decision acceptable to you?”. To the crowd’s “NO!”, he asked,  “Shouldn’t there be a revolution?” “Will you stand by Nawaz Sharif in the revolution?”, he asked, inviting cheers of “Yes!”

In the last four years that Nawaz Sharif has been in office, his policies failed to serve the wider interests of the working class, peasants and the poor in Pakistan. In fact, most economic policies have instead led to a deterioration of the living conditions of the Pakistani masses. This is why wider sections of the Pakistani masses do not have any trust in any of the establishment parties or the political elite.

Nawaz Sharif however still enjoys support among his party members and some workers who remember well the difficult life under military dictatorships and want to defend civilian rule. Sharif has also been reminding the public of this. But then again, Nawaz Sharif also came to prominence as part of the General Ziaul Haq-led dictatorship in the 1980s. Later he also led the right-wing Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (Islamic Democratic Alliance) to topple Benazir Bhutto’s government.

Yes, we need a revolution. But what type of revolution is Nawaz Sharif calling for? This is not the first time that the ruling elite has used terms like ‘revolution’. Before Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and PPP leaders have also used such demagogic rhetoric. But, of course, all of them failed to explain what kind of revolution they are aiming to achieve. All of them benefit from the exploitive economic system and are not revolutionaries by any stretch of the imagination. They invoke the idea of revolution to cling on to power by raising the hopes of the masses.

Revolution is not just a word; it is meant to change the entire prevailing system. Social revolution means changing the economic relations of society. The ruling class’ politics is only about protecting their economic interests. They introduce legislation to protect private property and to make exploitation legal. Lenin, in ‘The State and Revolution’, pointed out that “the exploiting classes need political rule to maintain exploitation, ie in the selfish interests of an insignificant minority against the vast majority of all people. The exploited classes need political rule in order to completely abolish all exploitation, i., in the interests of the vast majority of the people, and against the insignificant minority consisting of the modern slave-owners – the landowners and capitalists.”

The rhetoric of ‘revolution’ that ruling class parties and their leaderships use is for specific purposes. Mostly they use such rhetoric in periods of economic uncertainty to channel the anger of the oppressed classes that are bearing the burden of the economic crisis due to policies of the ruling class. The ruling class’ talk of revolution is limited to political infrastructure and they want change only to maintain their grip on power.

Nawaz Sharif has also talked about ‘civilian supremacy’ in his public rallies, saying that no prime minister of Pakistan has completed their term in office. It is true that, in the 70 years since independence, Pakistan has been under military rule for almost half the time. On the other hand, the Pakistani people have an inspiring record of resisting martial rule, as in the 1968-69 uprising against Ayub Khan’s military regime, the 1983 MRD struggle against the dictatorship of Gen Ziaul Haq, and the 2007 struggle against Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime.

During these periods, a section of the political elite either collaborated with the regimes or remained silent. Those from the elite who were expelled or were in opposition paid mere lip service to change and did not directly challenge the military. They waited for their opportunity to return to office to take the crown for themselves.

The unfortunate fact is that ‘civilians’ do not have a real say in economic or political decisions. Just the right to vote is not a solution for the people. They are inherently having to choose between ‘the devil and the deep blue sea’, as the old saying goes. The elite, which control politics on behalf of the capitalist system, make economic decisions on their own behalf. In the ultimately analysis, politics is ‘concentrated economics’. So the question of ‘civilian supremacy’ is linked to the economy of the country, and which forces control and own the economy.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/227180-Rhetoric-and-reality

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The End of Bhuttoism

By Ammar Ali Jan

August 31, 2017

From Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto’s judicial murder to Yousuf Raza Gilani’s dismissal through the courts, the Pakistan People’s Party has had a tortured relationship with state institutions. Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari were repeatedly imprisoned and exiled in their political careers. Add to that the countless, and often nameless, PPP activists who endured the worst excesses of military regimes, and we understand the persistent antagonism between the party and sections of the state.

The recent string of luck for PPP leaders, including Asif Ali Zardari’s acquittal from corruption cases, comes as a point of departure from this history. This change in fortune has also generated suspicion that the party leadership has dropped its traditional opposition to the country’s powerful establishment in exchange for relief through the courts. We have no way to verify such speculation, but it does reflect the sentiment that the PPP’s timidness on the political stage signals a shift in the nature of the party.

The PPP’s emergence as a political force in the late 1960s was a major disruption in the elite-centred political culture of Pakistan. Not only did the party lead a popular campaign against Ayub Khan’s dictatorship, propelled by an explosive combination of the working class and students, but it did so on an ideological agenda. ZAB’s calls for the introduction of ‘Islamic socialism’ was consistent with the ‘Third World Populism’ in the era, and won him a broad range of supporters in the country. The constitution of Pakistan formed during the PPP government contains traces of this mass upheaval, with constitutional guarantees for issues such as employment and housing, themes that curiously remain missing in debates around the constitution.

There has always been an enormous debate on the merits and failures of the Bhutto regime. What is beyond doubt, however, is the mythical stature acquired by ZAB in the eyes of the public after the overthrow of his government, and his subsequent hanging. For my parents’ generation, which was politicised under the Zia dictatorship, Bhutto’s death was not simply another unfortunate event in Pakistan’s political history. The sheer arrogance of murdering a popularly-elected leader was considered a personal insult. The deep sympathy for Benazir Bhutto and Nusrat Bhutto also stemmed from the images of despair and resistance that these two iconic women stood for.

The name ‘Bhutto’ turned into a mirror image for a large number of young people in which they saw both the indignity they themselves experienced and the possibility of revolting against it. Careers, families, and friendships became secondary to the quest for healing the wound opened by Bhutto’s death, as activists charted a path that took them to prisons, exile, and at times, death. It was indeed a difficult task for me to read the ‘underground’ literature produced by PPP activists during the Zia era from the vantage point of a politically timid present. Facing a military dictatorship externally backed by the mighty American Empire and internally supported by extremist forces, the chances of overrunning the Zia regime were always slim.

There was, however, something breathtakingly innocent about the resolve to continue fighting, even symbolically, in order to deny the regime the satisfaction that its power was complete. These activists displayed a firm indifference to the consequences of their actions, as if giving up on their commitments was not even an option. This affirmation of one’s dignity in the face of an authoritarian order is an essential element of Pakistan’s political history that is yet to be written. The term ‘Bhuttoism’ is intertwined with this longer history of finding dignity in a dehumanising world. The language of ‘interests’ is simply inadequate for writing this history, since no self-interested individual would suffer for a party that came to power from 1977 to 2007 for a grand total of four years. This was a pure labour of love, one that can put any contemporary rhetoric of ‘revolution’ to shame.

The failures of the PPP governments in 1988 and 1993 damaged the trust in the party’s ideological commitments and its ability to govern. Yet, it could not take away from the party’s symbolic status as simultaneously representing a crisis, and a promise. The crisis is the refusal of the elites to acknowledge the sovereignty of the people, a situation that has plagued Pakistan since its inception. On the other hand, it is also a promise that when the will of the people coalesces around a leader, an organisation and an idea, it has the capacity to make the mighty tremble. It is the unfinished task of asserting popular sovereignty in Pakistan that kept the PPP’s appeal alive till late, despite the obvious shortcomings of the party leadership.

The history of defiance associated with the PPP is the reason why the trajectory of the party over the last decade has troubled many of its sympathisers. The packaging of ‘conciliation’ by the current party leadership as its ‘novel’ idea in Pakistani politics is embarrassingly naive. In fact, Pakistan has an excess of politicians, generals, journalists etc, who are willing to reconcile with any political actor if their interests are safeguarded, a tradition inherited from the colonial era. What was unique about the PPP was its ability to disrupt this consensus and identify the antagonisms obfuscated by the cynical use of ‘patriotism’ by state officials.

It is not surprising that the PPP has not been at the forefront of any movement on the burning issues of the day. The indifference of the party to the plight of peasants in Okara, slum dwellers in Islamabad, missing persons in Sindh and Balochistan, and the shocking silence around Mashal Khan’s murder confirm the party’s lack of interest in grassroots mobilisation. Instead, the focus seems to be on wooing political influentials, or holding innumerable ‘cake-cutting ceremonies’ to celebrate the various milestones in the personal lives of the Bhutto family. It is sad to witness such degeneration of a party that once contained the psychic investments of an entire generation.

There is a palpable sense of frustration among those activists whose political becoming occurred during the anti-Zia movement. The contradictory impulses of regret and pride shape their sense of self today. This contradiction is a direct result of a disrupted dream, shattered by those who were supposed to be its guardians. If the PPP of yesteryears was a conduit for the passions of a rebellious youth, today’s compromised PPP represents nothing more than the absence of dreaming in contemporary Pakistani, an absence that paradoxically maintains a heavy presence in its ability to produce widespread disorientation in our social and political culture.

The PPP is in power in Sindh, and it may return to power in Islamabad someday. But it is fast losing the charm that turned it into a part of our region’s folklore. And every generation needs its folklore and dreams to sustain its commitments. Inhabiting a world structured by a generalised suspicion that envelops even personal relations, we are a generation averse to commitments outside the ones imposed on us by the family, the state and the market system. In the wake of such tragic betrayals from the past, we must ask if there is still a point in holding onto ideals bigger than our individual selves. How we answer this question will have profound consequences for how we view history, politics, and ultimately, life itself.

Source: .thenews.com.pk/print/227177-The-end-of-Bhuttoism

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To Trump, With Love

By Abdul Basit

August 31, 2017

Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” This sums up Pakistan’s perspective of US President Donald Trump’s Afghan policy. After sixteen years of war costing one trillion dollars to the American exchequer, Trump has opted for the tried, tested and failed formula of conflict militarisation in Afghanistan. At the same time, he has accused Pakistan of “harbouring terrorists”, and urged India to play a larger role in stabilising Afghanistan.

Trump’s convenient but unsurprising scapegoating of Pakistan for American failures in Afghanistan is unfortunate. Instead of blaming Pakistan, the US needs a reality check and serious introspection. It is not Pakistan’s but America’s inconsistent policies and impatient approach that have destabilised Afghanistan.

Since 2009, the US policy in Afghanistan has changed every year. For instance, in 2009, the Obama administration opted for troop surge arguing there were not enough boots on the ground to win the war. In 2010, the US focus shifted to poppy eradication, which was deemed as the main factor that fuelled the Taliban insurgency. Then in 2011, the US developed an obsession with the rampant corruption in Kabul that undermined the US nation-building efforts.

Unable to break the deadlock of the Afghan conflict militarily, in 2012, the US reached out to Pakistan to pursue political reconciliation with the Taliban. The then Pakistan army chief, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, handed over his White Paper to President Obama as a blue print for Afghan reconciliation. In 2013, the US paradoxically adopted the policy of fight-and-talk simultaneously. In 2014, the US and Nato forces started pulling out from Afghanistan and handed over the security responsibilities to the Afghan forces. However, in 2015 and 2016, as opposed to his original plan of keeping 1,000 US troops in Afghanistan, President Obama stationed 8,000 US and 4,000 Nato troops under the Resolute Support Mission.

With his Afghan policy, Trump has revived the fight-fight approach as the war in Afghanistan comes full circle. It is not hard to imagine that 15,000 foreign troops would not be able to gain what 150,000 international troops failed to achieve. It will give the Taliban all the more reasons to continue their armed struggle. Trump will deny the Taliban an outright military victory with 15,000 troops, but he is unlikely to gain a position of strength to force the Taliban to the negotiation table.

It is over-simplistic to assume that the US lost the war in Afghanistan because of Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. The cross-border sanctuaries are not a game changer for the Taliban’s battlefield victories in Afghanistan. Today, more than more than 40 percent of Afghan territory is under the Taliban’s control and they do not need safe havens in Pakistan to continue the war. In addition, the Taliban have diversified their regional links with Tehran, Moscow, Beijing and Qatar to minimise their sole reliance on Pakistan. Given this evolving regional dynamics of the Afghan conflict, expanding Afghanistan’s war inside Pakistan will be counterproductive.

Notwithstanding Pakistan’s efforts to facilitate Afghan political reconciliation, on the US insistence, it was backstabbed twice. In 2015, the disclosure of Mullah Umar’s death during the Murree Peace talks between the representatives of the Taliban and Afghan government derailed the peace process, which had been looking promising. The jury is still out on who leaked the news and who benefited from it. On the second occasion, Islamabad was betrayed when the US droned Mullah Umar’s successor Akhtar Mansour to death in Balochistan when he was returning from Iran. Following Mansour’s death, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG)-led peace process – comprising China, Pakistan, US and Afghanistan – crashed.

The American demand of increased cooperation from Pakistan while ignoring the latter’s legitimate security concerns in Afghanistan is foolhardy. Washington’s backing for New Delhi to play a larger security role in Afghanistan will fuel the India-Pakistan proxy war.

Moreover, the US threat of blocking military and civilian aid cuts no ice with Pakistan. Aid is a political tool that the Trump administration is leveraging to force Pakistan for desirable cooperation. Of all the American financial assistance that Pakistan has received since 9/11, 60 percent is military and 40 percent is civilian. The military aid paid under the Coalition Supports Fund (CSF) is reimbursement of the expenditure that the Pakistan Army spends in counter-terrorism operations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. As far as civilian aid is concerned, 80 percent of it goes back to the US in consultancy overhead cost and only 15-20 percent is spent in Pakistan. Moreover, the aid that Washington provides Pakistan is not for egalitarian reasons, but to enhance its own security and global image.

Everyone wants peace in Afghanistan but on their own terms. Pakistan believes the path to Afghan reconciliation goes through Islamabad and requires power sharing with the Taliban. The Trump administration believes it can kill its way to victory by ramping up the war effort and keep the Taliban out of power. Similarly, New Delhi and Kabul want peace in Afghanistan sans the Afghan Taliban.

In such a situation, Afghanistan requires a new political vision at the local, regional and international levels. The Taliban are a hard reality that will not evaporate into thin air with Trump’s Afghan policy. Eventually, Kabul and Washington will have to sit with them on the negotiation table.

Conflict militarisation is counterproductive and the mutual blame game will only embolden the peace spoilers in Afghanistan. All wars have ended with negotiations and the Afghan war is not an anomaly to this historical reality.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/227178-To-Trump-with-love

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A Disenchanted Relationship

By Mushtaq Rajpar

August 31, 2017

Undoing what Obama stood for is one thing that US President Trump has been on course to accomplish – whether it is on the domestic front, foreign policy affairs or climate change.

Trump’s new Afghan policy is perhaps the only element of the new administration that has been largely endorsed within the US. Even media outlets that have criticised him seem to view it the right approach.

After eight months in office, Trump has not accomplished much. He is at war with the media through his tweets on healthcare, climate change and, more recently, the surge in white supremacist violence. His ‘wisdom and values’ are not just being questioned but are also being challenged. People like him, when let loose on the domestic front, launch wars, create crises and seek political gains.

The US has already spent $1 trillion over the past 16 years in Afghanistan and there is no end to it. According to a report by The New York Times, “the Department of Veterans Affairs has more than to 350,000 employees since 2001. And its budget has swelled to more than $185 billion a year, up from about $60 billion in 2001”. The Obama administration had requested more than $44 billion for fiscal year 2017 for the Afghan war – a figure that is to likely increase with the presence of US troops, which Trump is expected to boost by about 4,000. Experts in Washington believe that 4,000 additional troops might raise the cost of the Afghan war from $2 billion to $4 billion a year.

The Afghan occupation has cost the lives of more than 2,300 US soldiers and $828 billion has been already spent. The US government has reached the debt ceiling, with five percent chances of default, and the treasury will soon be unable to pay salaries if the debt ceiling is not raised. This is a US president who is caught in the worst domestic opposition in the first year of his term that no other American president in modern history has found himself in.

American newspapers are flooded with policy prescriptions on Pakistan and Afghanistan. Last month, a commentator termed Afghanistan “a disease” and not a country. This was a disgusting and derogatory statement rather than an analysis that was published by a leading newspaper. Afghanistan under the Shah’s rule and Najib’s takeover was a far more stable and educated country until the US, Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan threw it back into the stone age.

Trump’s new policy has clearly abandoned the peace talks agenda with the Afghan Taliban. A few indirect rounds of talks were aimed at buying more time to weaken the Taliban, depriving them of their military might and forcing them to accept the current Afghan parliamentary democracy and become part of the government. Talks with the Taliban were never on their agenda. Instead, making them accept democracy, disarm and participate in the political process is nothing less than what Washington expects. So do reconciliation talks have any future? Clearly not.

Washington cannot give up its support to a political system in Kabul that it has built over the past 16 years at a huge cost to financial resources and human lives. The Trump administration has shown a willingness to invest more resources in Afghanistan to disarm the Taliban and sustain the current political order. A withdrawal from the country anytime soon will create a space which the Taliban, Isis and other forces that are hostile to the US will occupy. Trump’s remaining term in power won’t allow this to happen. The American course in Afghanistan is, therefore, pretty much clear.

Pakistan must outline its own course of action on Afghanistan by keeping in view the fact that Washington’s boots will continue to be grounded in Kabul. The failed myth of strategic depth no longer holds utility. The Indo-US nexus in Afghanistan means that the country will remain neutral in case of any military hostility between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan is left with tough policy choices in the current situation. It is up to the Pakistani leadership, both military and civil, to opt for a choice that ensures sustainable economic and political stability in country. Any external shock would be hard to handle. When Trump says Pakistan has much to lose, it immediately means that if the country requires another IMF bailout, loans would be hard to obtain without an American node.

Since the 1980s, Islamabad’s dependence on foreign flows (financial injections) has increased. An annual $13 billion worth of debt-servicing could be disturbed if there is a change in loans required and the sustainability of remittances. Our alliances, whether it is China or Russia, do not have a history of providing cash loans to economies like ours. CPEC involves funding for infrastructure, expenditure on the labour force and equipment to be imported from China and not all the pledged money will land in Pakistan.

Islamabad’s strategic experts have experience of dealing with a hostile India. But they are not equipped to deal with a superpower that has the capability of striking in different parts of our country and the ground forces of our Western neighbour with Nato allies. Securing our own security and economic interests should be the top priority. We won’t achieve this by escalating the current blame game as both countries know very well how they view each other.

Postponing diplomatic interaction is unwise on the part of Pakistan. The new foreign minister, Khawaja Asif, is inexperienced in the art of diplomacy. His first reaction to Trump’s speech was uncalled for. Whoever may have provided the policy draft, it does not matter. The much-awaited policy review came to the surface only after an intra-agency review. Don’t we know what the Pentagon wants in Afghanistan and from us?

Keeping the communication channels open is in our best interest. If there is anything for us to gain, it is through talks with Washington. Eight months after Trump was voted into office, the US State Department extended an invitation to the foreign minister for the first time. However, the opportunity is lost. Diplomacy and foreign policy are not a form of constituency-based politics as the stakes are high and of a lasting nature.

Like Washington, Pakistan also needs an Afghan policy review. This review should include politicians as it is important to listen to them because they are more experienced than the pundits. It is in Pakistan’s interest to engage Washington in a dialogue. Our Afghan policy is not helping us. It has not even enabled us to secure our own country. Armed non-state actors are nowhere considered to be a source of stability and strength.

Source: thenews.com.pk/print/227179-A-disenchanted-relationship

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Women’s Economic Empowerment

By Dr Shenila Khoja-Moolji

August 30, 2017

It is often argued that women’s contributions to the labour force can be an important driver for economic growth in Pakistan. This is represented not only in government reports but also by transnational organisations and NGOs. Indeed, one of the major themes driving girls’ education campaigns in the country is that educated girls will be able to secure jobs and thus contribute to GDP.

According to the latest available data (2014-2015), female labour force participation in Pakistan is at 22 per cent. Given that nearly 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty, it is likely that actual figures are much higher, implying significant participation of women in the informal economy.

While women’s entrance in the workforce and their economic independence are worthy ideals to pursue, it is also critical to inquire into the kind of work available to women and their actual ability to experience empowerment through work. In fact, research shows that it is not ‘waged work’ in and of itself but the ability to save and create wealth that is emancipatory for women. Likewise, the 2014 World of Work report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) puts emphasis on the quality of work as key to alleviating poverty.

What then are possible pathways for women in Pakistan? And how can those pathways be made secure so that women can participate and thrive in them?

We often hear about entrepreneurship as an innovative avenue not just for women and girls but also for men to make an income. Rural women are advised to hone their skills and create a business at home. While this may be the pathway for some, it is not ideal for all.

In fact, according to the ILO, workers employed in family businesses are twice as likely to be “trapped in a vicious circle of low-productivity employment, poor remuneration and limited ability to invest in their families’ health and education.” This, in turn, “reduces the likelihood that [their] current and subsequent generations will be able to move up the productivity and income ladders” (emphasis mine).

During a recent visit to Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), I learned about how middlemen from metropolitan cities such as Karachi as well as outside Pakistan exploit poor women in home-based cottage industries. These women are dependent on middlemen for bringing their products to market, which limits their ability to negotiate better rates for their toil. They are thus compelled to sell their products at unfairly low per piece rates, with the additional margin accruing to the middlemen. This finding, unfortunately, is not new. Anita Weiss’s work with women workers in Lahore during the late 1980s points to similar uncertainties for women.

What’s required thus are mechanisms that protect the interests of these women and provide alternative means to access markets. The Aga Khan Rural Support programme in G-B, for example, provides crucial mentoring services to women and gives them an opportunity to take their products to exhibitions in cities. The state needs to not only encourage such efforts but create additional channels, including leveraging technology so that women can market their products online. In addition, programmes that enable women-run businesses to obtain capital, tax codes that are favourable to women, efforts to create pay equality and access to affordable childcare for women are all measures that can significantly enhance women’s ability to progress economically.

When supported, women can thrive not only in small businesses but also in professions dominated by men. Consider the Aga Khan Cultural Services’ Women Social Enterprise project (recently renamed CIQAM) in G-B, which models yet another pathway for women’s economic empowerment. In the village of Altit in Hunza, the project trains women in professions dominated by men, such as carpentry, furniture making and woodwork. Entrance in these male-dominated professions translates into better incomes for these women than would otherwise be possible in feminised professions such as teaching.

Projects like CIQAM, however, are rare in Pakistan because they not only require initial capital but also extensive effort in the community to create an authorising environment for women to work in otherwise male-dominated professions. Such projects call for a commitment that is long term and participatory, and thus require state involvement to achieve scale. The government can replicate such successful models of training and development elsewhere in Pakistan. This would entail not only creating new training programmes for women but also leveraging local social mobilisers and agents who can circulate messages about women’s contribution at the grassroots level.

If we want women to be economically productive members of society, we have to create an enabling environment for them to flourish and thrive. Low-paid, contingent, exploitative wage-work is not the answer to women’s economic empowerment.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1494291/womens-economic-empowerment/

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Census, Future and Girls’ Education

By Muhammad Hamid Zaman

 August 29, 2017

The fact that we finally got a census done is very good news, and credit should be given to the various stakeholders for this. But that is where the good news ends. The census numbers are alarming. There is little comfort in knowing that both the raw numbers and national growth rate are well above what the economic surveys had indicated. Successive governments had claimed that the national growth rate was under 2, and the rate was falling. We now know that both of these claims were inaccurate and misleading.

Not surprisingly, there already are discussions in political quarters about what this may mean for National and provincial assembly seats and the resources that go with them. The Leader of Opposition has suggested that the census is a conspiracy against the people of Sindh, who make the base of his party. He unfortunately provided no basis for his claim, or any data to back it up. He also failed to mention that while his party was in power, no effort to have a national census was ever undertaken. Beyond the conspiracy theories, there are important questions that economists and demographers are asking, including the dated and questionable definition of urban and rural. Observers are also worried about the current growth rate and likelihood of having nearly 400 million people before 2050. Pundits have also questioned the lack of will, ability and honesty in our population control programme.

For a moment, let us now turn our attention from the future to the present. With the current population, we are facing a fundamental crisis: a crisis of access to a decent life. Basic necessities including water, education and health services are not getting to millions. A study published last week, on the quality of groundwater in Pakistan, in a prestigious journal (Science Advances) shows that nearly 60 million people (about 29% of the total population) are at risk with the presence of alarming levels of arsenic in groundwater. This is well above the previous estimate. In the education sector, a recent national study had estimated that about 25 million children are out of school in the country. In the domain of health and hygiene, about 68 million do not have access to toilets or basic sanitation in the country.

So the question to ask is how do we handle the current crises and plan for the near- and long-term future. While a multi-pronged strategy is needed, awareness and education remains one of the most reliable and proven method to control population and improve the chances for better decision-making. First, educated mothers are less likely to have very large families, even in cultures where large families have historically been encouraged. Multiple studies in Africa, particularly in Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya have shown that women with no education have, on average, 5 or more children whereas this number falls to about 3 with secondary education and close to 2 with college education among women. Closer to home, decades long studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between population control and education in Thailand and South Korea. Educated girls are not only more likely to have smaller families but are also likely to contribute to the economy. Scandinavian countries have benefited tremendously from increasing the presence of women in the workforce. A balanced and diverse workforce in Norway, Sweden and Denmark has helped create strong social structures that have strengthened the economy and have improved the overall social cohesiveness. Finally, educated mothers are far more likely to ensure that their daughters get educated and hence the chain reaction starts to take off. Similar positive outcomes are also seen in healthcare (e.g. in vaccination and hygiene).

The population growth issue is not just an academic discussion or a policy debate. It has now become an existential question. Serious and sustained investments in girls’ education is not a Western conspiracy against our values, it is the only way to ensure our survival.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1493299/census-future-girls-education/

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Civilian Supremacy: Earned Not Negotiated

By Zulfiquar Rao

31-Aug-17

Earlier in August, we heard Raza Rabbani, Chairman of Senate, urging for an inter-institutional dialogue — mainly involving the judiciary, military, executive and legislature — to salvage the country out of its prevailing crisis and tackle ongoing issues. He insisted on this multiple times before media and in the Senate sessions he chaired. His statements were obviously seen in the backdrop during the removal of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. While Sharif’s political rivals hailed the verdict as historic, others found the decision of the court marred by lack of due process, and controversies around the thin basis for his disqualification, formation of JIT via secretive ‘WhatsApp’ call, and the inclusion of members from two military intelligence agencies.

Mr Rabbani’s appeal for inter-institutional dialogue has also been considered important in view of the impression that it was military establishment, which had connived with judiciary to oust Nawaz Sharif. It can obviously not be said with certainty — such impressions make their way among public and political analysts since democratic governments and politicians have suffered at the hands of overt and covert actions of these institutions. Starting from Justice Munir’s ‘doctrine of necessity’, which legitimized dissolution of Pakistan’s constituent assembly in 1955 to court’s validation of all military coups. From the tragic hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the sentencing of Nawaz Sharif in ludicrous hijacking case following his removal through military coup in 1999 — all reminds us of a deplorable nexus between judiciary and the military establishment.

From the tragic hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to the sentencing of Nawaz Sharif in the ludicrous hijacking case that saw him removed by a military coup in 1999 — this only serves to remind us of a deplorable nexus between judiciary and the military establishment

So when one sees removal of yet another popularly elected prime minister, the situation demands not an inter-institutional dialogue but introspection and will amongst politicians to fight it out for a primacy which is otherwise so naively desired. In democracy, a system of checks and balances is incorporated so that not only different institutions can work without any intrusion but also so that they function within the constitutional bounds. Wherever this system of checks and balances is weak or needs amendments, it’s only the electorates in the parliament who can rightfully make them.

However, if our politicians think that this can be done through inter-institutional dialogue, they are short of understanding on how power and authority work in society and polity. Why would a text-book definition of patriotism and respect for constitution motivate those institutions, that enjoy relative power and liberty to coerce and influence one another, to withdraw from such a powerful position? The situation in Pakistan is completely in favor of judiciary and military at the expense of political offices and leaders. Over the decades, the capture of power by the courts and military bureaucracy has only expanded; with courts ordering the executive what to do, and military calling shots not just in defence, security but in foreign policy matters as well.

Therefore not dialogue but as the saying goes ‘to acquire power you must possess or control a form of power currency’, political leadership will have to first be power literate in institutional terms as the prime movers and shakers in any democracy, and then govern beyond personal greed. Primacy of political institutions in a democracy comes with a huge responsibility. Although a lack of confidence doesn’t legally justify military takeovers and judicial hyper-activism, it makes such institutional incursions palatable to gullible masses and anti-democratic forces.

More often than not our political governments have opted to appease the two institutions by keeping them scant, or removing them where it existed, parliamentary oversight and of functional accountability. Politicians have also failed to neutralize the constitution of unjust amendment dictators; the article of the constitution under which Nawaz Sharif was disqualified is just one of the draconian changes the military dictators inflicted upon our constitution. Likewise, isn’t our system of recruitment in judiciary the most bogus? Who’s responsible to fix it? Surely, politicians sitting in parliament have to do it. And if the military establishment has drawn itself beyond its contribution in defense and national security matters, who is to fix it? Of course, it’s the politicians’ responsibility.

In order to see civilian supremacy, the political leaders need to show maturity; have a dialogue among them to formulate and commit to a political contract of democratic pledges. Unfortunately, that’s nowhere on the political horizon as even now political leaders aren’t ready to stop conniving with powerful state institutions against each other.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/31-Aug-17/civilian-supremacy-earned-not-negotiated

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Populating With Purpose

By Syed Rizwan Mehboob

31-Aug-17

Nearly bewildered by Pakistan’s ascent up the global population ladder after latest census, I hurriedly looked at my jungle friends — to see if the wild have something to teach on matters related to population.

Loads of wisdom on population control and population welfare, just as I anticipated. How to manage numbers in the wild? How to stay within reasonable limits to best benefit from nature’s bounties? How to conserve the balance and rhythm on the face of earth by honoring the prescribed and proscribed limits? Production patterns in the wild are strictly circumscribed by millennia old codes of conduct.

Mother Nature — through its unwritten codes in population control and population welfare — has successfully ensured survival and procreation of thousands of animal species over millions of years. And that, too, in strict accordance with the carrying capacity of nature’s indigenous resources. These cardinal canons on population control and welfare are religiously adhered to by all children of nature — except of course, Homo sapiens

Procreation is not an automatic right in the jungle. Only the best and ablest have precedence in matters related to raising new generations. Dogged fights, often with bloody outcomes, decide the most suited and fittest amongst the herds or prides to carry the genes from one to the other generation.

And after newborn arrive, the topmost priority has to be the well-being and immaculately planned rearing, against all odds of the young ones. Mothers in the wild will stay away from repeat production unless weaning of the young has been completed and finished to the best satisfaction of Mother Nature. No male can intrude or interrupt the extremely painstaking drill of raising the young by their doting mothers, meant to fully equip the new arrivals to ably fight along the road to survival and successful, meaningful existence.

But this is not the end of story. Young ones in the wild are reared and nurtured till a specific, stipulated time — when they are out of many dangers; when they can fend for themselves, having learnt the millennia old art of survival in the wild. And here the jungle code enforces another graduation.

The moment, young are reasonably grown up, these very doting mothers will next day, near callously, throw them out of the herd or pride. Guarded against all dangers by risking mother’s own life for years and then thrown out suddenly in an extremely rough manner — unaltered law of nature with no exceptions. The banishment of grown up from mothers and sisters in the wild carries great wisdom — minimizing and plugging any possibilities of inbreeding which can typically result in congenital faults in the next generation.

So the wisdom of the wild is plain and impressive in matters of population control. Only the best, ablest and the fittest are allowed to procreate. Production cycles are also meticulously regulated to ensure health and well-being of the females. This is followed by another devoted period of rearing and nurturing of the young by mothers during which time they will strictly stay away from male until such time that the earlier born young one are fully capable of survival in the wild. Every possible precaution is exercised to forestall inbreeding for ensuring healthy mixture of gene pool. On their part, young ones are taught best possible lessons on successful survival and existence, before they are sent away to fend for themselves.

As a result, Mother Nature — through its unwritten codes in population control and population welfare — has successfully ensured survival and procreation of thousands of animal species over millions of years. And that too in strict accordance with the carrying capacity of nature’sindigenous resources. The moment, numbers in any species in the wild cross the prudence limits imposed by nature, dire consequences follow in a mechanical manner to bring back balance in populations of the wild.

These cardinal canons on population control and welfare are religiously adhered to by all children of nature — except of course, Homo sapiens.

And here, I will like to interrupt and take you back to the days of an earlier census in 1998 where I was involved as a sub-divisional officer. It was a distant village on outskirts of beautiful district of Badin. I reached this village by way of snap checking the census and house enumeration work and stumbled upon a small homestead alongwith census field staff.

A typically shabby village house in lower Sindh where we were met with hero of that day: a proud head of the family who also happened to be the proud father of eleven — yes, eleven — kids, ranging in age from six months to seventeen years; and to complete the picture, he was flanked by his bewildered looking, “expecting again” poor wife.

Tilling a land measuring hardly a few acres and sustained by an erratic livelihood, augmented here and there by left-over, small quantities of prawns collected from local mangroves — he was the true face of a typical son of the soil. His malnourished wife and visibly under-fed children told the story of his unabated, prolific spree of productivity in total disregard to the prudent laws of nature on population welfare.

Needless to say, he had his side of the story which he told gleefully to justify his “numbers”. Once grown up, the “boys” will be a great help in the decades’ old, local blood feudinvolving Chandios and Mirbahars — he belonged to one of these tribes;the daughters will share the burden of household and livelihood chores; bonds in the family will be further strengthened by inter-marriages (six teenaged boys and girls out of his eleven kids already stood betrothed): and to cap it all, number of PPP voters will increase - “Jeeay Bhutto”, the good Samaritan proudly thumped his chest as we beat a hasty retreat.

I am not in the least surprised to see the figure touch 20.7 crores in 2017 but tremble in awe as I try to imagine present “numbers” around my old Badin friendfrom 1998.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/31-Aug-17/populating-with-purpose

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Pakistan’s Diaspora — Untapped Potential

By Adam Weinstein

31-Aug-17

Over the next month thousands of young Pakistanis will begin to filter into universities across North America, Western Europe, and Asia. Many will do everything in their power never to return home but if Pakistan is willing to adapt then it can receive the full benefit from its growing diaspora.

In Dubai, Pakistanis, who now outnumber Emiratis, find a gateway to the West through intra-company transfers or by saving money for education. The privileged of Pakistan, especially nearby Karachi, sometimes take the two-hour flight to Dubai just to attend a concert, making the city feel like a distant suburb of Sindh’s financial hub.

In the West some neighbourhoods have become synonymous with South Asian culture. Think Toronto’s Girard Street or Chicago’s Devon Avenue. Jackson Heights, a neighbourhood in Queens, New York, even became the name of an Urdu-language serial. Posh Manhattan nightclubs host Bhangra-themed evenings that cater to Punjabis from both sides of the border. Grocery stores with dhaba-esque dining areas encircle universities and provide students with an alternative to white-linen Indian fusion restaurants that tone down the heat and jack up the prices. And, non-resident Indians and Pakistanis co-host professional networking groups.

But the impact of intolerance and terrorism on emigration is also apparent. Every year families from the English-speaking Catholic community of Karachi’s Garden East neighborhood gather for a Toronto picnic in numbers that rival those back home. If you drive past the Imam Khoei Foundation, a Shia mosque in Queens, you’re sure to see groups of Pakistani men in shalwarkameezes gathered after namaz. And, in Philadelphia the Ahmadiyya community recently completed construction of a brand new mosque to serve its growing needs.

Still, most leave for economic opportunities. According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development only 51.3% of the working age population are employed and for women it is only 23%. Approximately one-third of youth are neither employed nor in school. Even for those with access to good jobs there is a strong incentive to leave. An unofficial network of Pakistani medical residents in the US is ready to host the next batch of graduates as they look to match with US hospitals. After receiving a faster and cheaper education in Pakistan they can make far more money abroad. This route is especially appealing to the 70% of Pakistan’s medical students who are women but make-up only about a fourth of registered doctors. Also among the diaspora are a plethora of artists, writers, and academics who express that their passions are more appreciated abroad.

Upward social mobility is also a factor. I recall meeting a successful businessman who purchased a house in the US as an investment but with no intention of relocating. Back home he enjoys a driver, cook, and nanny all at a steep discount. It is Pakistan’s inequality that makes life so good for the wealthy but drives one in five Pakistanis to desire permanent relocation according to a Gallup.com poll.

In the short-term, Islamabad should look beyond big corporations and create incentives for entrepreneurs in the form of small business loans and grants. Pakistanis returning from abroad are forging new ventures such as cross-fit training and tech firms but millennials often work from home to avoid taxes or because they lack capital. Growth is then limited to the informal economy. Foreigners can step-in as partners with startup capital or form businesses themselves but they are subjected to absurd red tape from company registration offices and slow clearances from the Ministry of Interior. Despite a security situation that has led multinational board meetings to often be held in Dubai, Pakistan has a less saturated market that should be low-cost to enter, making it ideal for small businesses and startups. Thus Pakistan cannot afford to continue making business difficult.

In the short-term, Islamabad should look beyond big corporations and create incentives for entrepreneurs. Pakistanis returning from abroad are forging new ventures such as cross-fit training and tech firms but millennials often work from home to avoid taxes or because they lack capital

Tourism could also jumpstart the economy. The old excuse that Pakistan is too dangerous or not of interest for Westerners is moot when tourists are flocking to visit Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Indian-administered Kashmir, and Iran. Pakistan must follow other regional countries and issue online or airport visas. Exploring the beauty of Pakistan should not be dependent on an invitation letter nor does this antiquated process protect national security.

Lastly, Islamabad must do more to engage with the diaspora and mobilize young people. Non-resident Indians and Indian Americans have been pivotal in improving Washington’s relations with New Delhi. More than just sending remittances, Pakistanis abroad can serve as a tool in helping the world engage diplomatically and economically with Pakistan.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/opinion/31-Aug-17/pakistans-diaspora-untapped-potential

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