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Pakistan Press (28 Jul 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Time for Introspection By Abbas Nasir: New Age Islam's Selection, 28 July 2018

New Age Islam Edit Bureau

28 July 2018

Time for Introspection

By Abbas Nasir

Will Democracy Follow?

By Aisha Sarwari

After The Victory Speech...

By Dr Imran Khalid

Does Imran Have A Plan?

By Yousuf Nazar

How to Heal a Nation

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

The Challenges of Election Day

By Ahmed Bilal Mehboob

This Is Just the Calm before the Storm

By Dr Ikramul Haq

Education beyond Elections

By Faisal Bari

Credit Goes To the ‘Voters’

By M Ziauddin

Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau


Time for Introspection

By Abbas Nasir

July 28, 2018

AS Imran Khan’s PTI starts work on government formation after its general election victory, parties on the losing side which are blaming their loss on rigging, may consider adopting a two-pronged approach as they move forward.

The first would obviously be to test the PTI leader’s offer of cooperation in investigating possible irregularities on election day in constituencies where they may have reason to believe the result did not represent the popular will on the day.

A deliberate distinction is being made here in the use of ‘on the day’ issues, as some in the media and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan have already raised concerns, while listing factors likely to have had an impact on the outcome of the elections ahead of polling day.

As the PTI found out most recently after the 2013 election, and before that the PPP in the 1990s, allegations of rigging are not easy to prove whether they are being made with or without justification.

The insipid manner in which any advantage accruing to the PML-N was squandered by Shahbaz Sharif was reminiscent of the stuff political obituaries are made of.

Adopting this path takes resilience and painstaking effort as polling agents have to be deposed, legal challenges mounted, resources deployed for the recount and reverification of fingerprints on the ballot papers among a host of other similar tasks.

Perhaps the best way to move on this is that each party with a grievance or complaint about the conduct of the exercise on polling day should pick up a few constituencies where they believe the most outrageous of irregularities have taken place and seek a forensic audit.

This has to be done for two reasons: to establish the legitimacy of the allegations and equally to en­su­­re that any loopholes in the process that can subvert po­­­­pular will be plugged in future — on the day at least.

My thoughts are also being shaped by a sense that the current leadership of the major parties, which are attributing their loss to rigging and interference by quarters most of them are reluctant to name, lack the appetite for street agitation.

Perhaps this lack of appetite is informed by their experience that unless they have powerful backers among state institutions, coupled with committed and motivated cadres, it would be difficult to change anything via street protests.

Hence, the second prong of the strategy involves introspection. Multiple talking heads created a racket trying to speak over each other on TV rather than analyse the situation on results night. Ergo, it was difficult to make sense of what they were saying.

But even then the idiot box vigil was worth it. After all, the ‘analysts’ had drifted off the screens, possibly exhausted after rather competitive and prolonged stints on air, at some point, there appeared a pollster on one of the channels.

I am not trying to deny it credit, but I sincerely don’t remember the channel, not even the name of the pollster. Red-eyed and suffering from an overdose of ‘analyses’, I sat up as this man started to make a few points.

The first was that his organisation was correctly able to call the direction events would take on polling day as their surveys showed that the PTI’s consistent messages that Imran Khan took the lead in voicing resonated with many voters.

You and I may have found words such as ‘chor, daaku, patwari (thief, robber, land record official — the latter in rural areas is usually seen as corrupt) distasteful but somehow these were making a connection in Punjab in particular and nullifying Shahbaz Sharif’s development message.

He conceded that most of his surveys were carried out before the arrival and imprisonment of the PML-N leader and ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz on July 13, a mere 12 days before the election.

Asked to explain the extraordinary support for the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he attributed it to the police reforms which had the most impact; as did some improvements in healthcare and education. Most of the blame for failures was deflected to an unfriendly centre.

Having heard the pollster, I reflected on the 2013 campaign and the election result. The two themes that the PML-N talked about endlessly in Punjab (and PTI in KP as elsewhere) were corruption and load-shedding.

These resonated with the electorate, decimating the PPP in Punjab and ANP-PPP in KP. Post Panama Papers, the PPP may have lacked the credibility to attack the PML-N in Punjab on ‘corruption’ but the PTI had no such handicap.

Had all other factors in the lead-up to the election been equal, even then I suspect that the PML-N would not have repeated its past performance at the polls simply because Shahbaz Sharif’s message was failing to gain traction on the ground and the PTI’s was.

The only effective counter to that was Nawaz Sharif-Maryam Nawaz ‘vote ko izzat do’ (honour the vote) campaign, with all its connotations, as it seemed to draw in and charge massive crowds at rallies before the father and daughter had to fly abroad.

And they had no control over the timing of the deterioration in Ms Kulsum Nawaz’s health, forcing them to extend their stay till their sentencing by the court. This meant they were not able to campaign during a critical period.

There was only one direction that the self-declared ‘sullah pasand (conciliatory)’ Shahbaz Sharif could have taken the PML-N and he did. Was he in denial that the forces he was trying to appease had already found a better horse to lay their final bet on as well?

The insipid manner in which any advantage accruing to the PML-N from the defiant duo’s return on July 13 was squandered by Shahbaz Sharif was reminiscent of the stuff political obituaries are made of.

As the governing party now will have to bear the bulk of the burden of scrutiny, away from the limelight opposition could do well to reflect on factors other than ‘rigging’ that may also have affected its electoral performance.

Admittedly, Shahbaz was an able deputy to his elder brother and an effective Punjab administrator but could not morph into a leader. The PPP also needs to put its best foot forward in delivery and leadership to revive its fortunes outside Sindh and to remain relevant in its power base.

Source: dawn.com/news/1423420/time-for-introspection


Will Democracy Follow?

By Aisha Sarwari

July 26, 2018

On July 24, I returned from a polling station in the G-8 sector of Islamabad. It seems as though Imran Khan is set to become the prime minister of Pakistan. This line sounds like an alarm bell; a shrieking of a car right before a bang; nails on a chalkboard and also sounds eerily familiar. Pakistan has had military rule for almost as much time as it has had democratic governments, so if Imran Khan is in power, how democratic will it be? As democratic as a cat guarding the milk, if you look at how vehemently he has supported the excessive defence budget of Pakistan.

If democracy is democracy, three things must take place: open flow of information so voters can be educated on context; an environment without fear and harassment and lastly, an inclusion of all minority groups. Majoritarianism is not democracy. Yet you see that this election was based on three specific facts: a revolting media ban with controlled information flow. We saw that TV anchors were given a list of allowed words and forbidden words. Opinion editorials were taken off. Journalists’ homes were ransacked. To proliferate a culture of fear, many activists were temporarily abducted and returned without a story to tell. Others have not returned so far.

Women and minorities have a story to tell though. The gender gap in registered voters went up, not down, since 2013, so women surely were left out deliberately on technical grounds like the need for a national ID card. The fact is that democracy pre-dates ID cards. Also, if you are considered non-Muslim while you disagree, you will have your right to disagree taken away. An entire community is not voting because separate voting lists have been made for them in a clear violation of the UN human rights charter which the country is signatory to.

So three things as prerequisites to democracy are the exact three things that did not take place pre-election. So on Election Day we do these three things: We grieve; we accept that democracy, though flawed, is better than blatant military coups and a three-time democratic transition is better than only a two-time transition and lastly we wake up tomorrow, pull up our moth-eaten socks and get to work.

There is much work to be done. We need to report on how free and fair the elections were and expose irregularities. There was a polling booth reported by a TV channel that was not functional even after voters showed up. When investigated, it turned out that election officials had been directed to delay preparatory work.

We must also hold Imran Khan accountable if PM-select becomes PM-elect. We must ask him why he voted to block a pro-woman amendment to the Hudood Ordinance in 2006; his stance on blasphemy laws; why he said real mothers stay home to raise kids and turn down empowering formal work and most importantly, why he cannot differentiate between corrupt people allegedly funding his campaign from the corruption he based his entire campaign on.

The one thing that gives me solace is that Imran Khan will come into power, or his party will, at a time when #MeToo is gaining ground in Pakistan. In politics, women have always been told it doesn’t matter what a man does in his private life; who he hurt; who he abandoned; who he impregnated outside the law and who he battered. We are told to “separate the man from the greatness he pretends to have.”

#MeToo has unseparated it. It has asked, via a social media court, for men in power to stop hiding under the garb of popularity and to stop violating women and getting away with it.

Imran Khan can court the religious right; marry a woman of Purdah and ask that minority groups are punished. All he wants, everyone will still pay heed to the fact that he is untrustworthy to those he makes promises to. The private is now political because private lives of leaders are public domain and therefore cannot be hypocritical anymore. Private lives that reek of mistrust and exploitation and double lives are going to reflect a doublespeak in government. It will reflect intellectual corruption. The economic cost is huge.

In an interview to DW, Imran Khan said the problem of minority persecution is a “small issue”. He said the real issue is malnutrition and economy. It made for a good sound-bite to the media but it made for a terrible philosophy in a leader. No citizen of Pakistan, once persecuted by the state, is to be diminished. Not women, not transgender, not religious minorities and not the poor.

Someone I respect as a political opinion-maker said this to me: “Imran Khan is a tribe of trolls. He will be prime minister, but he will never be respected.”

On July 26, 2018, I hope, for the sake of Pakistan, that this statement proves wrong and that Imran Khan gains the respect of the weak marginalised classes of Pakistan. We are only as strong as our weakest link.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1766428/6-will-democracy-follow/


After The Victory Speech...

By Dr Imran Khalid

July 28, 2018

As expected, the victory speech of Imran Khan has generated immense positive response from all the quarters — still there are some old critics who are despising it as the “routine stuff” from any new incumbent — and it has suddenly changed the whole mood of the post-election scenario. It has brought soberness and calmness to the highly-ecstatic and charged festivities of the PTI besides making its rivals to switch to a little low-profile mode. He seems to be in a reconciliatory mood at the moment. Obviously two years of confrontational politics has also exhausted him physically and mentally, and he eagerly wants to start his innings without much distraction. He deserves an easy run at the start of his long-awaited stint, but he must not forget that his revengeful opponents will try to keep alive and replicate his confrontational politics as long as he stays at the helm of affairs. He must not expect any mercy from the rival camp. Now, after thrashing the MQM and the PPP in Karachi, from Lyari to Malir, he has suddenly beefed up his rival camp that was until now confined to the PML-N only. The charges of “rigged and engineered” election are whirling at full speed in the air and the Shehbaz-Fazlur Rahman duo is looking for all the possibilities to create disruption by using the platform of an All Parties Conference.

The reservations being expressed by all the major political parties about the election process, particularly about the vote counting procedures, need independent inquiry at all levels. Imran Khan, in his victory speech, has wisely and generously offered transparent investigations into all the complaints regarding electoral irregularities. This is a right approach. But the fact is that the opposition parties do not have enough stamina and grit to launch an agitation at the moment to cause any palpable disturbance in the transfer of power to the PTI. After two years of constant agitation and wrangling in the political theatre, a kind of fatigue has enveloped the public mind and any call for protest is not likely to gather a positive response — even the die-hard supporters of the PML-N and other parties will refrain from making too much noise at this stage when the establishment and the judiciary are not in a mood to allow any disturbance. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seems to be content with its current tally of seats and it is more concerned about retaining its government in Sindh, therefore, it will also not go along with the MMA and the PML-N “too far” in this protest against the election rigging. Ironically, the public in general is divided into two broad groups — the first group consists of Imran Khan’s supporters who are in a state of ecstasy over his electoral success, and the second group belongs to anti-Imran Khan elements who have apparently accepted his victory as a bitter reality and they are mentally ready to give him a “chance” now. So, there is a general consensus among the majority of the Pakistanis that “let’s give a chance to Imran this time”. Against this backdrop, the politics of agitation is not expected to gain any momentum in the coming days.

Indubitably, Pakistan witnessed one of the muddiest and most horrid election campaign in the recent history. Foul language and despicable exchange of personal taunts was the most aching feature of the election campaign and even Imran Khan could not restrain himself from involving himself in many such below-the-belt scoffs against his rivals. However, Bilawal Bhutto was the only exception who did not indulge in any kind of blame game and personal attacks. Instead, his main focus remained on promoting his party manifesto — a sign of his political maturity. Bilawal Bhutto, who probably ran the most mature and sober election campaign, will also avoid the confrontational politics for quite some time. Imran Khan, although unintentionally, has injected toxic elements in the culture of his PTI and this has been exhibited blatantly during his election campaign. This bitterness and disrespect to the opponents has seeped into the culture of the PTI and Imran Khan will have to work consciously to expunge this factor gradually from his party.

Now the biggest challenge for Imran Khan is how to live up to the high expectations of his supporters who have voted him to power in the hope to see the emergence of a “Naya Pakistan” — a progressive Pakistan free from corruption and injustice. From the very first day in politics, Imran Khan has been campaigning for his one-point agenda — eradication of corruption from the country. He has single-handedly worked on this campaign against the widespread corruption in society, particularly in politics. He has been very consistent and resolute on his anti-corruption campaign throughout his political career. Factually speaking, the voters have responded to him primarily on the basis of his sincere anti-corruption slogans. The level of expectations is very high and Imran Khan will have to execute his anti-corruption drive diligently and with utmost impartiality. There are many people within his close circle who have dubious reputation with regard to their involvement in corruption, and there will be immense pressure on Imran Khan to cleanse his party from such elements that have the potential to damage him in the coming days. A plethora of internal and external challenges — including a debilitating economy, cross-border terrorism, souring relations with neighbouring countries, social development at the grassroots level, a chronic energy crisis and sluggish industrial growth — is hovering around Imran Khan’s ascension to power and he will have to tread very carefully while executing his ambitious party manifesto. Unlike his predecessors, Imran Khan will be appraised very minutely by his detractors — as well as his supporters — and his each move will be scrutinised at micro level.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1767797/6-after-the-victory-speech/


Does Imran Have A Plan?

By Yousuf Nazar

JULY 28, 2018

Imran Khan has claimed victory amid accusations of vote manipulation by the main opposition parties in an election that was predicted to be the “the dirtiest, most micromanaged and most intensively participated polls in the country’s history” by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). The jury is out on whether this is actually the case.

Imran Khan’s maiden speech as ‘incoming prime minister’ holds a promise that he can make the transition to a statesman from a polarising and controversial politician. He hit on some right notes in a refreshingly humble and conciliatory tone. He began by addressing the state of the weakest and most underprivileged citizens in Pakistan, citing well-known statistics, moving on to widespread dissatisfaction with governance and the weak state of the economy. His declaration that he would not use the palatial prime minister’s house and put the mansions occupied provincial governors to use for public purposes will strike a strike a chord with the people who, he rightly pointed out, are averse to paying taxes because government finances are abused by the ruling elites.

Initial reactions to Imran’s speech have been positive, but his first 100 days as prime minister will be closely watched. He has raised great expectations among large segments of the population. Is he ready to deliver?

Imran apparently sees no contradiction between describing the caliphate from the early days of Islam as his model of a welfare state and sending a team to China to learn how China lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty in a few decades. This betrays a crucial weakness. If after a 22-year journey in politics, he feels the need to send a team to China to learn about their development strategy, it is hardly impressive. A popular TV channel today ran a news item drawing parallels with late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and his populistic politics. However, this is where the comparisons stretch. Bhutto had a very clear reforms agenda, no matter how controversial or otherwise, which he implemented within his first 100 days in the office. Imran seems to still be searching for one.

Imran apparently sees no contradiction between describing the caliphate from the early days of Islam as his model of a welfare state and sending a team to China to learn how the People’s Republic lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty

Pakistan faces daunting economic challenges and the new government will have to get on with the job as the foreign exchange reserves drop and growth stalls. One international paper recently commented,

“If Khan’s thoughts on extremism and militancy are dangerous, his solutions for Pakistan’s economic problems are childish: elect better leaders (i.e, Khan), put corrupt politicians in prison and recover their “looted” wealth.’ Imran made no mention of looted wealth in his speech and instead promised not to carry out political victimization and start accountability with himself and the cabinet.”

Imran’s government will need to move quickly beyond rhetoric and populist prescriptions discussed in the drawing rooms of the urban middle class forms his core support base. Here are some reality checks:

The state bank has just $9.1 billion worth of reserves, insufficient to cover two months’ worth of imports. Pakistan has few options but to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for yet another bailout. The IMF will ask the government to curb spending and cut the budget deficit. The new government will have to cut development spending, which will leave little room for any increase in welfare spending.

Expanding the tax base is easier said than done. Contrary to the popular perception that people don’t pay taxes, it is the actually the richest who avoid paying taxes. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2017-18, tax exemptions to various affluent businesses amounted to Rs541 billion. If the PTI government withdraws these exemptions granted by the “corrupt” Nawaz Sharif, it will face a backlash from the powerful businesses in Punjab and Karachi.

Given the ground realities, the policy options are difficult and demand a full reappraisal of the fundamental issues and formulation of a comprehensive reforms programme. While there is a broad consensus that we need to cut fiscal and current account deficits, and increase investments, the challenge is to come up with a comprehensive response because the time for piecemeal solutions is up. Although there is no choice except to borrow from the IMF to finance the current deficits, this is not a sustainable strategy.

It is an established fact that a democratically elected government’s best time to introduce difficult economic reforms is around the beginning of its tenure, especially during a crisis period. It takes time to formulate and implement a programme. Does Imran Khan have one beyond sending a team to China to learn about its growth miracle?

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/274065/does-imran-have-a-plan/


How to Heal a Nation

By Farrukh Khan Pitafi

July 27, 2018

The people have spoken. Imran Khan is slated to be the next prime minister of Pakistan. He has already delivered his victory speech in which he came out with a magnanimous message best suited for a victor. How much can he deliver on these promises is still to be seen. Let us wish him well. But there is no gainsaying that this country is deeply and excruciatingly polarised. This piece is meant to address the societal fracture we have endured for years and how to get rid of it.

One great gift of democracy is its ability to heal. However, that is not what we have seen in Pakistan in the past ten years. In this decade, intolerance seems to have grown and society appears to have been divided into two irreconcilable wholes. Many explanations can be given. Sign of times? Global phenomenon? Well, maybe. But it goes way back. What you are witnessing right now has fermented for ten years. The first assessment was the anger that stemmed from Musharraf’s holdovers disenfranchised by his removal from power. However, a close examination disproves this notion.

Two factors stand out when you care to look. The first is this incredible pain which refuses to go away. A nation that has lost over 70,000 citizens to terrorism, with literally countless injured and permanently disabled, does not know how to handle this pain. War fatigue and battle bruises when mistreated lead to anger and paranoia. Add to it the sense of betrayal. The saga of Musharraf’s rule needed a closure. In this space and elsewhere, I implored politicians to come up with the needed narrative and a remedy. In hindsight, for you he might have abrogated the Constitution twice but there is no dearth of people who still look up to him. Sadly, politicians proved they were out of their depth here. No closure. It kept festering like a long-ignored wound.

And the second factor complicates the matter further. The baggage, the stubbornness and the ineptness of the political governments. The People’s Party’s government could not handle the economy. It went south. And then its harebrained antics, for instance, attempt to bring an external intelligence agency under the interior ministry did not win it any laurels. Finally came the worst blow, the tale of the memo, where it was learnt that the government was trying to lobby a foreign government’s power circles to manage the domestic civil-military imbalance. You have seen how it played out in the media and the court. Now conduct a thought experiment. Imagine how it must have played out among those who were tasked to combat terrorism. Bedlam.

Now, about the PML-N. Electing Nawaz Sharif as prime minister was a leap of faith. A humungous one. Nawaz Sharif was removed from power by Musharraf’s coup and there was no way to dismiss chances of vendetta. But in some cases, this daring, bold endeavour paid off. The PM grudgingly owned the war on terror. Consequently, we have managed to marginalise the terrorists. Likewise, the economy seemed to be moving in the right direction. For a heartbeat. But most economists kept protesting the cruder aspects of what is now known as the Darnomics. Macroeconomic stabilisation came but at a chaotic and troubling cost. And then in the end it vanished with the departure of Ishaq Dar. But what got them in the end was an attempt to politicise a case of assets-beyond-means which they failed to defend legally. Mian Sahib had no serious issues with the dynamics of civil-military relations, at least not visibly so, until Panama Papers case surfaced and became too hard to handle. The system kept throwing him lifelines. He repeatedly dropped the ball. Inquiry. TORs. Superior court’s dismissal of the petition. But Mian Sahib did not agree to a political solution. When it went to the court, he was again offered opportunities. The bench was reconstituted owing to the retirement of a chief justice. There was ample time for the former premier to find a political solution. Yet again, no luck. You realise how much of it was sheer ineptness and good old lethargy? But hey, how about doing nothing and blaming it on the soldiers? And thus, came the civil-military narrative. The Dawn leaks. Domestic acrimony grew. The international media bought it. But here in Pakistan it proved futile on the Election Day.

Not everyone has the patience to offer the political class endless opportunities. A whole host of such friends sit in the media and tell you how a majority of politicians is nothing more than a gang of petty thugs. It is exaggeration of course. But for the fainthearted and the inept it creates an unending list of impediments. When ignorance converts into hubris, it can have devastating effects. And it did.

Please do not misconstrue for a second that I mean to trivialise the reaction from the other side. Nor that there were no mistakes from the other side. I am just looking at a fracture and pointing how the people we elected could have done better. In a royal rumble, not all blows are fair. The point is all of this was unnecessary and could have easily been avoided. We all live in the same country. We all have similar aspirations for the country. A more resourceful person could do much more to bridge the gap. A careful but intelligent dialogue could unite the nation. But that did not happen.

In the tug of war that we have seen in the past 10 years, our injured, our tired and our poor are the most neglected. The soldiers, the cops and even civilians who sacrificed their lives or their body parts were not properly celebrated as heroes by politicians. There were rituals. But without a soul.

The new government is in luck. It is trusted by many of our estranged brothers and sisters. When it comes to power, they feel empowered. But the new government can do few important things to repair the fracture. Reach out to the opposition. Be truly magnanimous because most of the vindictiveness stems from the second floor of power not the top floor where Imran will sit. Upgrade its narrative on the fight against terror and embrace our heroes. Uphold the same standards of justice for its own so that no space for misplaced victimhood remains. And then work on the agenda of better governance that it has promised.

If the new government can rise up to this challenge, we may soon bury this polarisation for good. Godspeed.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1767033/6-how-to-heal-a-nation/


The Challenges of Election Day

By Ahmed Bilal Mehboob

July 28, 2018

ONE must confess that, despite all the hard work of the Election Commission, a dark cloud of suspicion did hang over polling day on July 25. There seems to be near-consensus among a number of political parties, civil society organisations, local and international media commentators that the pre-election environment in Pakistan was not fair. The EU Election Observation Mission also acknowledged complaints regarding the pre-election phase in its preliminary statement issued after the election.

Despite the importance of the pre- and post-election phases in Pakistan, polling day, too, is critical in many ways. One can divide the day into five distinct stages. The first stage is the casting of votes which continues uninterrupted for nine hours. This time the duration was increased to 10 hours. Snatching and stuffing of ballot boxes used to be the most popular mode of election rigging in developing countries before the advent of the electronic media.

Despite negative perceptions about the pre-election phase, the process of polling went exceptionally smooth on July 25, with very few major violations of the law or rules reported. The movement of voters and the conduct of polling staff and polling agents was quite disciplined and orderly, and at least partly the credit can go to the presence of armed forces personnel both inside and outside the polling stations. Polling staff and security personnel — both police and military — were generally polite and helpful to the elderly and handicapped persons. Many polling stations witnessed long queues even before polling time which indicated the public’s zest to exercise their right to vote. Towards closing time, again queues formed and it appeared that many of these voters might not be able to vote before 6 pm. Both PML-N and PPP leaders demanded a one-hour extension in polling time which the ECP declined. However, it sent instructions to the presiding officers (POs) to not turn away the voters present even outside the polling station premises. Generally, this instruction seems to have been followed.

The complaints of the political parties need to be seriously investigated.

Despite the presence of military personnel inside and outside the polling stations, the occasional visit of their officers to polling stations and filming and photographing by the ISPR crew, apparently, there was no incident where military personnel gave any unlawful instruction to the polling staff.

The extreme hot and humid weather made it very difficult for the polling staff to perform their duties comfortably. The rooms where polling activity was conducted became extremely stuffy and warm. Voters staying there for even 10 to 15 minutes would felt extremely exhausted. It is highly commendable that the polling staff, both men and women, and security staff in their thick uniforms spent more than 12 hours in such conditions. There were media reports of some polling staff fainting, even dying, of suffocation and hot weather.

Counting of the votes is the second, critical stage of polling day activities and the law requires that it should be carried out in the presence of candidates or their agents. At the end of counting, the presiding officer completes Form 45-Result of the Count and Form 46-Ballot Paper Account, affixes his and a senior assistant presiding officer’s signatures and thumb impressions and asks candidates present or their agents to sign the forms. A copy of the completed, signed and stamped Forms 45 and 46 is required to be given to each candidate or his agent and another copy is to be affixed at a prominent place in the polling station for public knowledge. Many political parties and their candidates have complained that their polling agents were turned out at the time of counting and that they were not given a copy of Forms 45 and 46. The ECP has contradicted these allegations and has asked political parties and candidates to provide it with evidence so that appropriate action may be taken. Since almost all political parties have voiced these complaints, these need to be seriously investigated.

The next stage is the transmission of election results from each polling station to the respective returning officers. It is here that all hell seems to have broken loose. Some problems have even been acknowledged by the ECP. The smartphone-based new Result Transmission System, reportedly prepared by Nadra for ECP, apparently collapsed soon after it was put to use. It seems that the system had not been adequately tested. The problem was not just limited to the breakdown of the RTS; reportedly, many presiding officers inexplicably turned up very late at the ROs’ offices to submit the original Forms 45 and 46 leading to suspicion that they were being pressured to change the result count. Only a thorough investigation and forensic audit of Forms 45 can determine the exact issues.

The fourth stage relates to the consolidation of results of each constituency by the respective ROs on the basis of the Forms 45 received from the POs. Each RO was provided a laptop, two IT personnel and a computer-based application for processing the results through a Result Management System (which was developed in-house by the ECP). Reportedly, the RMS worked fine but since Form 45 came in late, the consolidation of results through RMS was slow. The RMS was supposed to generate Form 47-Provisional Consolidated Statement of Results of the Count and Form 48-Consolidated Statement of the Results of the Count furnished by the POs.

The last stage of the polling day was the transmission of results from the ROs to the ECP. Since ECP has taken almost 48 hours to declaring about 99 per cent of the results, it is not clear exactly which stage of the election day proceedings suffered from problems. As stated earlier, only a thorough investigation can identify the actual problem, fix responsibility and, above all, allay the suspicions of political parties, candidates and the public in general.

Source: dawn.com/news/1423419/the-challenges-of-election-day


This Is Just the Calm before the Storm

By Dr Ikramul Haq

JULY 28, 2018

Although July 25 was marked with public enthusiasm and excitement, it was also marred by allegations of rigging from the losing parties, the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) usual inefficiency and incidents of violence. Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) victory upset many, especially a section of media that started blaming the ECP for delays in announcing the results. The failure in compilation of results through computer software was portrayed as a “big fraud and massive rigging” by many who failed to realise that the physical records of each and every polling booth could have been examined to detect any gerrymandering. ECP should be blamed for its incompetence, but dubbing the entire electoral process as ‘doubtful’ or manoeuvred amounts to insulting the people’s mandate.

It seems our politicians have not yet learnt to respect the people’s mandate and demonstrate willingness to work for the country and its people after losing or winning. It is high time that they learn how to rise above political differences and join hands to establish sustainable democracy with social justice for all. Winning or losing is part of democratic dispensation — the real challenge comes in the post-election period. We are still facing threats from miscreants against the state. Wanton attacks taking away precious lives during the election campaigns by various parties testified to this. The second challenge is rapidly deteriorating economic conditions having serious ramifications.

The obscurantist forces at war with the state are blatantly committing treason by maintaining private armies prohibited under Article 256 of the Constitution. They are openly demonstrating disloyalty towards the state, violating Article 5 which says: “Loyalty to the State is the basic duty of every citizen and obedience to the Constitution and law is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being within Pakistan.” The violent attacks cannot just be called acts of terrorism — these are much more than that. In fact, these constitute an open war against the state that needs to be tackled with an iron hand by the new elected government as a first priority.

PTI will have to enforce strict fiscal discipline, proper collection of taxes, judicious use of public money and above all rapid infrastructure development and economic growth

The new government with consensus of all political parties should establish special war tribunals to punish miscreants guilty of violating Articles 4 and 256 with impunity. Article 256 clearly says that “no private organization capable of functioning as a military organization shall be formed, and any such organization shall be illegal.” Flagrant violation of Article 256 and that of Article 5 needs to be punished without any further delay. Chapter VI of the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860 mentions inter alia, conspiracies against the state, collection of arms for the purpose of waging war (s. 122), concealing knowledge about such designs (s. 123) condemnation of the creation of the country, (s. 123A) defiling the national flag (s. 123B), assaulting president or the governors with the intention of creating hurdles in the lawful exercise of their powers (s. 124), sedition (s. 124A) and depredation on territories (s. 126)—need to be applied wherever required, adopting due process of law provided in Article 10A of Constitution.

The second most critical challenge is economy. The PTI will have to deal with pressing economic issues like inadequate revenue, perpetual fiscal deficit, public debt of 72 percent of GDP that is Rs. 24.5 trillion as on June 30, 2018 (domestic debt of Rs. 16.5 trillion and external debt of Rs. 8 trillion), record fiscal deficit of Rs. 2.5 trillion, trade deficit of $ 37.7 billion and circular debt of Rs. 850 billion — just to mention a few.

PTI will have to enforce strict fiscal discipline, proper collection of taxes, judicious use of public money and above all rapid infrastructure development and economic growth. The new government will have to take curative measures and tough decisions in the first 90 days along with overall structural reforms. The policy of appeasement towards tax evaders, money launderers and plunderers of national wealth, if not discontinued, will push the country to complete disaster. The shameless indulgence of rulers and bureaucrats in wasteful expenditure has pushed the country towards a position where half of the population of the country is facing malnutrition and one third is living below the poverty line.

The new government will have a formidable challenge on the fiscal front. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is not collecting taxes according to real potential that is not less than Rs 8 trillion. Measures that are necessary to make a tax system functional and effective relate to (i) devising and running an efficient and truly independent tax justice system; (ii) expert legal advice for drafting simple tax laws in local languages; (iii) designing tax forms and procedures; (iv) innovations in tax management; (v) broad-based personnel policy; (vi) effective intelligence, especially under-cover operations; (vii) taxpayers’ education; (viii) development of work ethics; (ix) healthy working conditions; and (x) efficient redressal of problems faced by taxpayers.

If we want to improve tax collection and win the confidence of taxpayers, it is imperative to replace FBR with National Tax Agency (NTA). This would facilitate people to deal with a single revenue authority rather than multiple agencies at national, provincial and local levels. The mode and working of NTA can be discussed and finalised under Council of Common Interests [Article 153] and its control can be placed under National Economic Council [Article 156].

We must introduce a 10 percent flat rate tax on the net incomes of individuals with alternate minimum tax of 2.5 percent on net wealth. Corporate tax rates should be reduced to 20 percent. This kind of simple taxation would induce voluntary compliance provided all the citizens are aware of the fact that competent and effective tax machinery exists having a tax intelligence system that can easily detect tax avoidance. Nowhere in the world is proper collection of taxes possible without a strong enforcement apparatus. However, the apparatus should be friendly and firm—friendly, to the extent of educating and guiding the people for fulfilment of their tax obligations, and firm to the extent of punishing wilful defaulters.

The new government can easily collect taxes of Rs. 8 trillion without levying any new taxes and further destroying the ailing economy. There is no need to be dejected. We have tremendous potential. All we need is good governance, effective and modern tax administration and prudent use of public money. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure redistribution of income and wealth through progressive taxation—taxing the rich for the benefit of the poor. At present, we are taxing the poor for the benefit of the rich.

The new elected government of PTI can end debt-enslavement, which is the main cause of our subjugation provided that as a first step, the President, Prime Minister, ministers, parliamentarians, heads of political parties and high-ranking government officials, start living modestly, pay and collect taxes wherever due and by their behaviour, mobilise the masses for discharging their obligations diligently.

Source: dailytimes.com.pk/274265/this-is-just-the-calm-before-the-storm/


Education beyond Elections

By Faisal Bari

July 27, 2018

But a few things should be clear. First, though a lot of reforms can be pointed to and a lot of changes on the input side can be highlighted, it is hard to show significant changes on the output or outcome side: enrolment and learning gains, two of the major outcome objectives for both provinces, do not show up as strongly as both parties have claimed. And trends, in enrolment and learning outcomes, are even harder to point out.

Second, we cannot differentiate between the performance of the provinces to clearly say that one did better than the other. Our macro numbers are not good enough to do that and any claims of better performance, if they are any, have been made on the basis of very shaky evidence.

Third, though the two parties will find it hard to acknowledge this and might not like it either, it is a fact that most of the reforms that have been implemented in the two provinces, in the area of education, have been quite similar to each other. It could be that the same sort of ‘best practices’ had been shared with the two governments. They might have copied or followed each other’s ‘successful’ reforms, or it might have been that the same donors were involved in advising on education reforms and even financing some of the reforms (DFID, World Bank, etc).

We cannot differentiate between the performance of the provinces to clearly say that one did better than the other.

I am going to restrict this discussion to the PTI in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the PML-N in Punjab, and not talk of Sindh and the PPP as the education reforms in Sindh, though similar in nature, were, generally speaking, less effectively implemented than in the other provinces. I am taking the front runners, so to speak. But most of the argument applies to the PPP-led reforms in education in Sindh as well.

Teacher recruitment process has been changed to make it more ‘objective’ and less prone to corruption, teacher numbers, salaries and grades have been improved, and teacher training has been changed. This has happened in both provinces and almost in parallel.

Monitoring and evaluation systems have been introduced at teacher and school level. The monitors collect data on student and teacher attendance, provision of infrastructure and some variables for in-class performance as well. There are some differences in how this data is aggregated and utilised across the two provinces, but again, both provinces have put in place similar monitoring and evaluation systems.

Infrastructure provision has been a major part of ‘reforms’ in education in both provinces in the form of room construction, bathroom construction, provision of water and electricity, and making of boundary walls.

Even the ‘smaller’ reform efforts have had a substantial overlap. There have been efforts to ‘fix’ the examination systems across the two provinces. Both provinces have been providing textbooks to all students in the public sector, both have been running scholarship and stipend programmes, especially for girls, and both have been focusing attention on districts that had been lagging behind in educational performance.

There were some differences too. The chief minister in Punjab had a road map and a stock-taking process that raised the profile of education issues to the highest level. This process was not followed in KP. Daanish schools were opened up in Punjab but not in KP. Punjab also introduced the Punjab Examination Commission to conduct province-wide examinations in Grade 5 and 8. KP is still exploring this area. But these differences, compared to the similarities, are not significant.

As we move past the elections, parties will be working on their policies for the coming years. The questions to think about are: why did the policies of the last five years show limited results on the side of outcomes? Why are millions of children, especially at the level of middle and high school, still out of schools? Why are learning outcomes not showing stronger trends? These questions are much more important than asking whether the PML-N did better than the PTI or vice versa. The people are interested in the outcomes and not relative performance.

Both governments claimed that they spent billions on education, that they raised education budgets substantially (though the real, as opposed to nominal, increases are actually quite modest). So then why are outcomes sluggish? And what will these parties do differently if they get the chance to govern again? Will it be more of similar policies or will they be working through the reasons as to why earlier policies might not have been as successful as they had hoped for?

Party manifestos tend to be summary statements with overall objectives and only headline news about intended policy actions. Many are even written in bullet-point form. Party manifestos from this time were no different. Even after reading the manifestos it is not clear how are these parties thinking of the future. But it is clear that, when in a position of power, they will continue a lot of the policies they have been implementing as they think they did quite well in their respective provinces. So, one should not expect a lot of soul-searching in the next term. This will be a sad outcome. The problems of access, quality, relevance and equity in education are non-trivial and are impacting millions of children: those who are not in schools and even the majority of those who are in school. If the main parties are not able or willing to introspect and think through why their efforts over the last five years did not yield the results they had hoped for, how are we going to change policies for the future and bring in fresh thinking and fresh ideas?

Source: dawn.com/news/1423204/education-beyond-elections


Credit Goes To the ‘Voters’

By M Ziauddin

July 28, 2018

Pakistani ‘voters’ never bring back the incumbents. That is a tradition that ‘they’ have religiously maintained all through the last 10 general elections held in this country since 1970 except the one held in 1977. That ‘they’ have once again rejected the incumbents in the just-concluded general election should not, therefore, surprise anybody — not even those who brought in the incumbents in 2013 with their votes.

This time also, the results were very different from what the media had been predicting. A hung parliament is not in the offing but a coalition government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the single largest party in the house, is very much on the cards.

The third general elections held since the one in 1970 was conducted on non-party basis simply to keep the ‘voters’ from bringing back the last elected incumbent — the PPP — which had formed a very short-lived government following the second general elections of 1977. The fourth general elections saw the ‘voters’ rejecting the Pakistan Muslim League that had been created out of the non-party house.

At the end of the 11-year-long military rule of General Zia, the kitty was found to be completely empty and Pakistan in the grip of massive load-shedding. The 70 billion dollars or so unencumbered assistance that the entire so-called free world led by the US and China had doled out to Pakistan for serving as the frontline state in the 10-year-long war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan seemed to have disappeared without leaving any trace on the ground. Then interim finance minister the late Mehbubul Haq rushed to the IMF for a quick bailout package. But the Fund was understandably too reluctant to even talk to an interim finance minister.

Believing that the novelty of a young, highly-educated and modern woman having striking looks in the office of the PM in a Muslim country would surely invoke the right kind of responsiveness in the rich world and the dole would restart coming at the same old pace, the ‘voters’ brought the PPP to power but understandably kept it out of Punjab and restricted its political manoeuvrability in its political base Sindh by pitting it against the MQM.

In the fifth general election, the incumbents as usual were rejected by the ‘voters’ as by that time the national coffers had been replenished and the load-shedding had been brought under control to an extent. In the sixth general elections, the incumbents were rejected by the ‘voters’ to punish Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for rebelling against his mentor, president Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Interestingly, Benazir Bhutto was once again brought in because the ‘voters’ knew that with her in the PM Office, President Clinton would not sign on the file declaring Pakistan a terrorist state which was left unsigned on the presidential desk by the outgoing president, the Bush senior.

In the seventh general elections, the ‘voters’ rejected the incumbents as by that time the threat of being declared a terrorist state had completely receded. And when the eighth general elections were held, the ‘voters’ rejected the last government elected in 1997 and replaced it with the PML-Q. In the ninth general elections, the incumbents were rejected by the ‘voters’ in favour of Zardari’s PPP. In the 10th general elections, incumbents were rejected by the ‘voters’ and in came the Nawaz-led PML-N. And finally in the 11th general elections, the ‘voters’ once again rejected the incumbents and brought in the Imran Khan-led PTI.

The ‘voters’ seem to be needing Imran Khan very badly because once again as in 1988 the coffers are empty and the economy in a shambles. Hoping that Imran — being a person well known all over the world as one to be trusted with money and known for his charitable work proven both in health in education sectors — would be able to bring in the required resources to bail out the country from its current economic plight and put it on the path to socio-economic recovery. The ‘voters’ came out in big numbers on July 25th to pave his way to the PM Office.

Source: tribune.com.pk/story/1767793/6-credit-goes-voters/


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/pakistan-press/new-age-islam-edit-bureau/time-for-introspection-by-abbas-nasir---new-age-islam-s-selection,-28-july-2018/d/115966


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