Archive for August, 2009

To the future

August 26th, 2009
Parliament House, Islamabad, Pakistan

Parliament House, Islamabad, Pakistan

Is it difficult to foresee where we are heading when we see the teeming millions lined up for hours behind trucks carrying foodstuff? Is it difficult to imagine what is brewing when we see our women being spanked with leather shoes and batons by the police and other government minions, when the governor of Punjab steps forward for an ill-fated photo opportunity distributing foodstuff to the extremely deprived Pakistanis? Why must we degrade our poor citizens like this? Let us now start respecting the poor and stop depriving them of their self-respect. Hunger can make a human being desperate and when the hungry outnumber the affluent in a situation where the gap between the deprived and the affluent becomes as wide as it is now in Pakistan, a catastrophe is always in the making. A hungry man has nothing to lose and when his basic human dignity is also violated, the combination can become very lethal. Beware is all one can say.

The political system of Pakistan is in tatters. The country has a Constitution that has been ripped over the last 36 years. Our Constitution is oft-quoted but freely violated with impunity. The Constitution dictates a Parliamentary form of government but over the 36 years of its life, Pakistan has had a mix of an effective and semi effective Prime Minister for only 15 years. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was an effective Prime Minister as per the Constitution for four years, that is, from 1973 to 1977. The 11 years from 1988 to 1999, were shared between Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in two short stints for each with powers that were shared with two other members of the then existing troika — the President and the Army Chief. In the 90s, the President always weighed heavy on the Prime Minister because of his despicable powers conferred upon him by the still existing infamous Article 58 (2) (b) of the Constitution and the complete support of the army chiefs of that decade. The rest of the 21 years of the Constitution that dictates a parliamentary form of government were spent under two army chiefs proclaiming themselves as Presidents namely Gen Ziaul Haq (1977-1988) and Gen Musharraf (1999- 2008). Why must Pakistan have a Constitution at all if it has to be abrogated and violated freely? A country without an adhered to Constitution can hardly have a future to look forward to by its citizens. Therefore, corrective measures are urgently warranted.
» More: To the future

Pakhtun political reorientation

August 20th, 2009
Pashtoons performing the Khattak war dance

Pashtoons performing the Khattak war dance

For so many decades Pakhtun politics has been made to revolve around two issues namely Kalabagh Dam and the renaming of NWFP as Pakhtunkhwa. The Pakhtuns now need to understand that a progressive future for the NWFP does not depend upon its name or on whether the Kalabagh Dam is constructed or not. Moreover, NWFP does not become Pakhtunkhwa simply because some people begin to call it Pakhtunkhwa without bringing about a constitutional amendment. Therefore, that amendment must be brought about by the present rulers of NWFP or they should admit they cannot do this and move on to real and substantive matters that affect the daily lives of the poor and neglected Pakhtuns.

Fooling the Pakhtuns anymore on this aspect will be futile and counterproductive. I too would like to have NWFP renamed to the entire satisfaction of the people of NWFP but more than that I would like to see NWFP moving towards industrialisation, agricultural development, quality education, modern technological development, a huge forward surge in the quality of life in an environment of absolute peace and tranquility so that she (NWFP) becomes a land of opportunities for the Pakhtuns. If this is made to happen it will save the Pakhtun from going to big cities elsewhere in the country and the Middle East digging earth for other people’s development while NWFP continues in its standstill situation as far as progress is concerned.

It is time for the Pakhtuns to be given opportunities to become something other than a soldier, a policeman or an ordinary security guard. Calling NWFP by the name Pakhtunkhwa without a constitutional amendment and beating the drum of Kalabagh Dam will not give the Pakhtuns education, health facilities, peace, a home and some bread to eat. The Pakhtuns now need to reorient their political thoughts and think of electing for themselves, on the next opportunity, a political leadership that is modern, progressive and dynamic.
» More: Pakhtun political reorientation

The Pakhtun dilemma

August 12th, 2009

The strategic conflict between Russia and the British Empire for the supremacy over Central Asia came to be known as the Great Game. The 1813 Russo-Persian Treaty triggered the Great Game, which ended in 1907 through the Anglo-Russian Convention. During the Great Game the Pakhtuns found themselves sandwiched between the two superpowers of that time flexing their muscles for more strategic gains and were thus forced into a situation which saw many battles fought on their lands.

The First Afghan War began in 1838 when Lord Auckland, the governor general of India, thought that India’s North-West Frontier must be protected by having a friendly Afghanistan. By 1839 the British succeeded in re-imposing upon the Afghan people a deposed and disliked ruler who was kept in power by ten thousand British troops barracked in Kabul. However, by 1842 the British had to evacuate from Kabul as a result of several setbacks. Thus, the first British effort aimed at eventually annexing Afghanistan failed miserably but, by then, the Pakhtun belt had been subjected to years of fighting.

The Second Afghan War came about when Russia, after ending its tensions with the British Empire in Europe through the Berlin Congress of 1878 turned its attention once again to spreading its influence in Central Asia. A Russian diplomatic mission succeeded in making its way to Kabul in the summers of 1878. This prompted the British to ask Kabul to also allow the British Empire to establish a mission in Kabul, which was declined. This prompted the British to invade Afghanistan and converge on Kabul through Kandahar, Peiwar Kotal (near Parachinar) and the Khyber Pass. Kabul was captured and a government suited to the British was established. All of it happened after the Pakhtun belt had once again been subjected to miseries and fighting.
» More: The Pakhtun dilemma

Pakistani Taliban Leader Believed Dead – NPR

August 7th, 2009

Reports say Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, has been killed in a U.S. drone attack. The Pakistani foreign minister, intelligence sources and some members of the Taliban say Mehsud died when an unmanned U.S. aircraft destroyed his father-in-law’s house Wednesday. But no one has been able to offer definitive proof of his death.

MELISSA BLOCK, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I’m Melissa Block.

MADELEINE BRAND, host: And I’m Madeleine Brand.

Baitullah Mehsud was once described by Newsweek as more dangerous than Osama bin Laden. As we’ve been reporting, Pakistani authorities now believe he was killed this week by an American missile strike. They’re seeking final confirmation. One of Mehsud’s own aides has reportedly confirmed his death.
» More: Pakistani Taliban Leader Believed Dead – NPR

On our own feet

August 5th, 2009

The writing is on the wall and the bell now tolls louder by the day. Hopelessness overshadows hope. Despondency is on the increase. Whenever any nation is gripped by the kind of gloom that exists in Pakistan these days it is time to think of what needs to be done to get out of the quagmire. For Pakistan the one-point agenda must be to have a constitutionally administered country.

Having walked through the corridors of power long enough to understand what goes on there, I am sure the government is being given feel-good reports by sycophants who can never muster the moral courage to interpret hard realities for their political masters. These accursed sycophants get deeply embedded in every government and in due course trigger the undoing of the government and its leaders. When the undoing occurs the sycophants disappear. Musharraf must now be wondering where his court jesters have disappeared though he should know that quite a few of them are now embedded in the current dispensation, which ought to be wary of them.

Currently, Pakistan is fragile and has just witnessed a very threatening situation in Swat and other parts of the NWFP. That the situation has been reversed from one of complete despair to some hope indicating that the NWFP, the land of the proud Pakhtuns, may, eventually, revert to peace and stability has been a direct result of a military operation. The Army deserves kudos from the nation for having restored some sanity to the situation. Complete return to absolute peaceful conditions is still a long way off and will require a political effort which is presently absent. The military gains can be made permanent only if a political consolidation of those gains is made; something that is not the job of the Army but that of the political dispensation. If this does not happen soon matters can drift backwards once again and this time around there will not be much that the Army will then be able to do.
» More: On our own feet