Thursday, January 31, 2008

Iftikhar Day today

(Courtesy GEO)

KARACHI: Lawyers are boycotting courts and taking out protest rallies across the country on Chaudhry Iftikhar Day to express their solidarity with the sacked judges.

Lawyers of the Islamabad and Rawalpindi Bar Association are planning to march to dismissed chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's residence this afternoon. In Karachi, Justice retired Rana Baghwandas is addressing lawyers at the Sindh High Court Bar Association's offices.

Later, the protesters will march towards the press club. Lawyers are also gathered in the District courts in Lahore and are planning to march on the Mall. Authorities have vowed to stop the protest and heavy contingents of police are deployed in the area. Smaller protests are taking place in Peshawar and Quetta and heavy security is in place in all the cities where rallies are being taken out.

Pictures from Iftikhar Day Rallies can be found here.

Justice Iftikhar lashes out at Musharraf

By Nasir Iqbal

(Courtesy DAWN)

ISLAMABAD, Jan 30: Deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has written an open letter to world leaders, rejecting the allegations levelled by President Pervez Musharraf during his recent tour of Europe.

“I’ve no other purpose than to clear my name and to save the country (and perhaps others as well) from the calamity that stares us in the face. We can still rescue (Pakistan) from all kinds of extremism: praetorian and dogmatic,” he said in the letter handed out to the media by advocate Athar Minallah at the Islamabad Bar Association on Wednesday.

The copies of the letter have also been sent to embassies and high commissions in Islamabad.

Addressed to the president of the European Parliament, president of France, prime minister of the United Kingdom, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Prof Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, Justice Iftikhar reassured that he would not preside over any bench that would be seized of matters pertaining to personal interests of President Musharraf after restoration of the Constitution and judges which, God willing, would be soon.

“I have found it necessary to write to you and others because during the tour General (retd) Musharraf has slandered me and my colleagues with impunity in press conferences, other addresses and meetings,” the letter said.“While meeting the international press, heads of state and other important personalities at Davos, Paris, Brussels and London, President Musharraf had also distributed a document, entitled ‘profile of the former chief justice of Pakistan’ and accused him for being ‘inept and corrupt’.”

Justice Iftikhar said he still was the rightful Chief Justice of Pakistan though detained in his residence along with his family since Nov 3, 2007, pursuant to some verbal and unspecified order passed by the General (retd) Musharraf.

He said the Constitution of Pakistan contained no provision for its suspension and certainly not by the army chief or bring amendments except by parliament.

There can be no democracy without any independent judiciary and there can be no independent judge in Pakistan until the action of November 3 (when the emergency was proclaimed) is reversed.“Whatever the will of some desperate men, the struggle by valiant lawyers and civil society of Pakistan will bear fruit. They are not giving up,” the letter said.

The edifice of an independent judicial system, Justice Iftikhar emphasised, alone stood against extremism and if this edifice was destroyed, the ground would be taken over by other. “This is what is happening in Pakistan.”

He asked the world leaders about any precedent in the history where 60 judges, including three chief justices, were dismissed, arrested and detained at the whim of one man.

“I have failed to discover any such event in medieval times under any emperor, king or sultan or even when a dictator has had full military sway over any country in more recent times.“

But this incredible outrage has happened in the 21st century at the hands of an extremist general out on a ‘charm offensive’ of western capitals and one whom the west supports,” he said.

Justice Iftikhar divided the allegations levelled by President Musharraf in the document into two parts: one which was also part of the reference filed against him on misconduct but was thrown out by a 13-member Supreme Court bench.

“The Supreme Court found that the evidence submitted against me by the government was so obviously fabricated and incorrect that the bench took the unprecedented step of fining the government of Rs100,000 for filing clearly false and malicious documents as well as revoking the licence to practice of the Advocate on Record for filing false documents.”

In the second part, the letter addressed the allegations like retaining political lawyer like Aitzaz Ahsan, riding in former prime minister Zafarullah Jamali’s car, creating a political atmosphere, countrywide touring and politicising the issue and political leaders calling on the CJP at his residence.

Vigorously denying each allegation, he said the new allegations dated to the period before the reference had been filed against him last March, yet none of them had been listed in the already bogus charge-sheet.

More pictures from the Peshawar Rally

Images: Ordinary citizens on the streets in Peshawar

Pictures from the peace rally in Peshawar. Report below.

Citizens stage peaceful rally in Peshawar

Citizens staged a peace rally in Hayatabad on Wednesday, demanding the government and militants make efforts to protect citizens from suicide and rocket attacks. read more here:\01\31\story_31-1-2008_pg7_51

What the above report did not highlight is that there was a strong anti-Musharaff mood in the rally and almost all the speakers held the government responsible for the present security crisis. I participated in the walk too and it confirmed my belief.

The writing on the wall is now clear -- the dictator has no sympathisers left in the Frontier. These are ordinary citizens, women and children showing dissent in the streets in a conservative place like Peshawar. These are evident signs that the dark days of Musharraf's rule are ending. (Account by an Eye Witness)

What is your mission?

By Dr. Haider Mehdi

Unusual as it was, Dubai in the UAE remained under dark clouds, chilled, and rainy for several days last week. Equally unusual, at about the same time, was the fact that Pakistan’s Attorney-General, Justice (retd) Malik Qayyum, a symbol of the neo-colonial mindset of the incumbent political establishment in Islamabad, was spotted shopping all alone, unattended by the subservient bureaucracy of the consulate’s office, in a Hypermarket at the Dubai Festival City. Indeed, it was an indication that the Attorney-General, wanting to be unnoticed, was on a secret mission in the Emirates.

Then came the news that Asif Zardari was also in town to see his children. What a coincidence! This was followed by other news that the Attorney-General had met the PPP Chairperson and offered him the premiership of an interim administration on the pre-condition of accepting certain government demands that included postponing the elections for another year. In the meantime, the General (retd) has been telling his audiences in Western Europe that there is “no way” elections could be delayed.

No less surprising, another media story surfaced: Shahbaz Sharif, President PML (N), had flown to Islamabad to inquire about the health of an old friend, a retired army officer who happens to be a close confidant of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. By absolute coincidence, it was claimed, the younger Sharif and the retired Brigadier flew to London for a medical checkup at about the same time.

In the meantime, the General (retd) continues to claim, abroad as well as at home, that by imposing emergency and dismissing the Supreme Court judges on November 3, 2007, he has upheld the constitution of Pakistan. How one justifies such an absurd and contradictory claim is only known to the General (retd). Ironically, in a similar analogous assertion, the General’s (retd) personal friend and staunch supporter, George W. Bush, considers himself “a president of peace” – notwithstanding a “holocaust” in which over a million and a half people have perished so far in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. This human carnage has been explicitly orchestrated by his 8-year neo-conservative ultra-Right-Christian-supported regime in Washington D.C. This is despite the fact that the Center for Public Integrity in the US says that the top US officials, including President Bush, lied 935 to the American public and the world in a two-year period leading to the Iraq war – in spite of this, the American president maintains that he and his administration were merely the unwitting victims of “bad intelligence”. Amazing incidents of deliberately intended falsehood, aren’t they? What can you say about these shameful charades of the ultra-Right-Wing politicians?

An internet website is currently circulating two pictures of the former two-time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In the first photograph taken nearly 2 decades ago, Nawaz Sharif is seen on the mazar (grave) of General Zia-ul-Haq saying, “Hum ap ka mission poora karain gay (We will accomplish your mission).” In the second picture, the former Prime Minister is at Benazir’s mazar (grave) and repeating exactly the same statement verbatim, “Hum ap ka mission poora karain gay.” What is this twice- (in two different eras) promised mission exactly?

No human relationships, honorable, dependable, mutual, respectable and lasting can be built on falsehood – let alone solid, healthy and confident relationships between political leaderships and the national masses at large. The war in Iraq is based on falsehoods. So is the so-called incidental meetings between the Attorney-General and Asif Zardari. Contrary to the impression given in the media, the meeting between Shahbaz Sharif and the brigadier was pre-planned for specific political purposes. Similarly, the General’s (retd) assertions, in totality, are based on absolute falsehood and are intended to manipulate the public and the global audience. Just as Nawaz Sharif’s two declarations of “Hum ap ka mission poora karain gay” are purely rhetorical for public consumption.

Falsehood, at an individual level is precipitated by three fundamental psychological factors: (a) The people who habitually lie have no respect for the intelligence of others. They assume that others cannot figure out the truth. Also, they believe that if a lie is told consistently and continually, it will eventually be taken as “the truth” (this is the basis of the media-driven democracy doctrine in the US in the present technological civilization). Politicians (mostly the ultra-Right-Wing media-dependent majority) make another addition to this psychological equation: they believe that people have short memories, and there is no moral dilemma involved in lying to the public.

The second factor at the base of individual falsehood is that the feelings of others, in mutual interaction and human discourse, are not considered as important. What is assumed important is one’s personal agenda and its fulfillment. Politicians’ interpretation of this component is that the masses are too ignorant and lack basic intelligence to understand the dynamics of Realpolitik – It is not the public’s role to decide what and what not to be said in a given situational context. Nor does the public have the right to make judgments on national issues. It is simply a prerogative that belongs to politicians, who are obviously knowledgeable and in power.

The third element that operates within the psyche of individual falsehood is personal arrogance and intrinsic disrespect for seeking mutually and an in-depth strength of relationship with others: “If you do not like what I say and do, then tough luck. It is your problem, not mine.” Politicians extend this personal arrogance to another psychological level: “We are above and apart from the public. We make history. We know what you don’t. The common people neither have the right nor the knowledge nor the vision to question our judgments.”

The question is: If the politicians and the present ruling leadership in Pakistan (for that matter globally, especially in the US) are so aptly visionary, then why are we at the edge of an abyss today? One explanation of the prevailing chaos is the politics of falsehood that has become the “modus-operandi” of our political existence and the intended perpetuation of the said system.

At a time of a seemingly national political renaissance (thanks to the civil society, lawyers and the courageous judges of the apex courts), Asif Zardari did not have to lie to the nation about a pre-planned meeting with a top government functionary; all he had to do was to tell the nation that he wanted to find out about the government’s offer and make a counter-proposal to benefit the national movement for the restoration of democracy. Shahbaz Sharif did not have to invent a story which no one considers credible; he simply had to say that he wanted to listen to what was being proposed to him. Nawaz Sharif should have remembered that people, after all, do not have such short memories, neither are the masses so remote from understanding what is going on in their country. Nawaz Sharif should have qualified his statements with a reasonable and sensible explanation.

As for the incumbent political establishment, we all know that its leadership suffers from an incurable paralysis of political incorrectness, lack of vision, poor management skills, and above all, from a futility of falsehood that cannot be healed – nor can it be restored to any meaningful dimension that is the call of our time. Judging from the severity of its misjudgments and flawed political decision-making this administration is beyond the possibility of redemption or salvation.

Surely, we as a nation have the right to know where the leadership of both the PPP and the PML (N) firmly stand on the questions of a national political renaissance movement – unequivocally.

What is your mission?

Let it be known that the masses are not ignorant, neither are they willing to accept falsehood as the ideological “modus-operandi” of our political existence.

Perhaps the nation should listen to Imran Khan more attentively, more carefully – more diligently – that is where a clear line is being drawn between political falsehood and the political truth of our times!

Seek the truth – and the truth shall set you free…!

The Nation, January 30, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Reconstructing Federalism

Dr. Rasul Bakhs Rais

Ethnic pluralism of the Indus valley region, that now forms the geographical core of Pakistan, historically was never separatist in orientation but rather interactive and integrationist for thousands of years under local kingdoms and great empires

Federalism, the constitutional distribution of power between the centre and the provinces, has suffered heavier blows during the last eight years under General (retd) Pervez Musharraf than any other time in our history. The story of other norms and institutions is no less tragic, but how we manage issues of federalism is of far greater importance to the future of the country.

The significance of handling the federal question proactively and according to popular aspiration lies in two political facts. The first fact is our national character as a multi-ethnic society. But this multi-ethnic character is like a marble shape, more intricate, inter-woven and complex than is commonly understood or recognised. This development that has taken place through migration, old and new, does not diminish the ethnic character of the provinces, their own ethnic mix notwithstanding. As has become clearer through painful experiences, the issue of provincial rights is one we can ignore only at the cost of damaging the federation.

The second political fact is that a multi-ethnic state like ours requires a democratic, federal framework of governance. Democracy would give peoples and their representatives a sense of ownership in the power structure and a stake in the political system, while federalism would give them political, economic and cultural autonomy. The theoretical foundations of a federal system lie in the concept of dual sovereignty, as it creates two sets of political authority: an effective and efficient national government, and state or provincial governments with separate and well-defined areas of jurisdiction. Empirically, federalism has proved the best arrangement for ethnically diverse societies. Its recognition of social and political pluralism integrates different communities together in a single nationhood.

Unfortunately, successive generations of politicians and policymakers in Pakistan have failed to demonstrate true understanding of ethnic pluralism and how to accommodate it in the political system. Maybe they understood the issue of ethnic diversity but fudged it by representing genuine ethnic and regional demands as opposed to the interests of the federation. This falsification had another sinister purpose: to legitimise themselves as true patriots while labelling ethnic leaders and groups as traitors.

Our national leaders, both civilian and military, never came to grips with the ethnic and regional realities of the country, which were presented as more of a problem than an opportunity to build inclusive, participatory nationalism. The use of religion to create national solidarity that would cut through ethnic identities was too idealistic to be a pragmatic solution to the real political problem.

The ethnic identities of regional social groups are rooted deep in history, culture, language and folklore. The illusory assumption that these identities could be wished away or instantly substituted with another politically engineered identity was proved absolutely false. And if we continue to ignore the ethnic factor in our national politics, it will only add further pressures and demands on the central political system.

The problem is that most of our leaders have been uncomfortable in recognising ethnic identity as a legitimate human feeling. It is also lost on them that ethnic difference is and can be a legitimate basis on which regional groups can claim their share in national resources, power and decision-making.

Ethnicity in Pakistan or in other countries is not inherently antagonistic to building a nation-state. Those who make the opposite argument are fixated on the European notion of culture-based nations, which were formed after many years of immeasurable bloodshed for powerful groups, often minorities, to impose their cultural hegemony on less fortunate, weaker groups.

Most post-colonial states are ethnically diverse, and by necessity have to go through a painful process of adjustment, mutual accommodation and co-existence by mutual acknowledgement, respect and inclusive politics. Pakistan, compared to many other countries, has an ethnic complex more conducive to nation building than in many other places. It has many layers of integrative forces that we could have used, and still can intelligently use, in weaving our composite nationhood.

Ethnic pluralism of the Indus valley region, that now forms the geographical core of Pakistan, historically was never separatist in orientation but rather interactive and integrationist for thousands of years under local kingdoms and great empires. There cannot be better evidence for this than in the historical pattern of migration and voluntary relocation of populations, regional commerce and trade. This historical pattern, which has continued over the past sixty years, has further transformed the ethnic landscape of Pakistan into a marble shape that presents a diffused, patchy and inter-woven image of ethnic colours and cultures.

This has happened, though, without any assistance from the country's politics, which was divisive rather than integrative in its refusal to accept regional autonomy and ethnic rights as one of the guiding principles of Pakistan's secular nationhood.

Let me clarify the idea of secular nationhood: shared powers, responsibility and political significance among all regions and ethnic groups.

Never in any situation is social diversity an obstruction to evolution into cohesive nationhood. It requires a different kind of politics, which must be dictated by the logic of ethnic diversity. It is a kindly national solidarity that needs to be built from below upward by listening to concerns and voices from the constituent regions; not by acknowledging them as rightful players but giving them a say and a stake in national power and decision-making. The trust deficit that we have between the centre and the provinces is in proportion to defective national politics, which has not been appropriate for or responsive to the ethnic mosaic that is Pakistan.

The successive authoritarian rules that we have endured for decades have alienated some ethnic groups, fuelling anger and frustration among them. Military rule by nature has a centralising tendency, and in our case, in popular regional perceptions, it has become associated with the dominance of the majority ethnic group. The one-man political show that we have watched helplessly for the last eight years has greatly damaged our federal structure.

It took us a quarter century to reach national consensus on the 1973 Constitution, somewhat settling the federal issue as the regional political parties accepted distribution of powers. We have not lived up to that promise. We don't need to repeat how individual rulers have disfigured the document to protect their own power and place in politics. Pakistan must return to a democratic, federal framework to address the question of ethnic diversity sooner rather than later. We are already late, weakened and politically disoriented on this fundamental issue of national importance.

The author is a professor of Political Science at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He can be reached at

SAC-Lahore Protest on the 2nd

Late Benazir cleared of corruption charges

RAWALPINDI: Slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has been cleared of all corruption cases after an accountability court today deleted her name from the final references.

Two National Accountibility Courts today heard references against Benazir Bhutto's husband -- Asif Ali Zardari -- in the Ursus tractors, ARY, SGS Cotecna, Polo Ground and BMW corruption references.

Judge Khalid Mehmood deleted Benazir Bhutto's name from the Ursus reference clearing her of all charges.

(Courtesy GEO)

Another award for Pakistani legal community

Annual Award for Distinction in International Law and Affairs presented to the Lawyers and Judges of Pakistan, as represented by Aitzaz Ahsan, in asbentia

Embattled judges and vulnerable children are among the issues to be taken up this week as more than 5,000 lawyers gather at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for the annual meeting of the New York State Bar Association.

The International Law and Practice Section tomorrow (Wed. Jan. 29th 2008) gives its annual award for distinction in international law and affairs in absentia to Aitzaz Ahsan, on behalf of the lawyers and judges of Pakistan. Much of that country’s legal and judicial community has been in conflict with Pakistan’s leadership since President Perves Musharraf suspended the constitution and replaced seven of the 11 members of the Supreme Court.

Mr. Ahsan, president of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association, has been under frequent arrest for his efforts to restore Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as chief justice.

Earlier this month, the New York City Bar Association granted honorary membership to Justice Chaudhry. In November, the city and state bars, as well as the New York County Lawyers’ Association, organized a rally attended by about 700 people at Manhattan Supreme Court in support of Pakistan’s lawyers and judges.

New York Law Journal :
New York State Bar Association (NYSBA):

Demo in front of Justice (R) Tariq Mehmood's house

As you all know that the constitutional period of 90 days to keep a person under arrest is about to be over, but the dictatorial regime has no intentions of releasing the detained lawyers and judges. Their only crime was to stand by justice and rule of law.

Therefore we are planning to gather in front of Justice (R) Tariq Mehmood's house in Islamabad to raise our voice against the injustice. Please note the date and venue:

Date: Friday, 1st February, 2008
Time: 4:00 pm
Venue: House 408, Street No. 1, Sector I-8/4, Islamabad

Everyone who is concerned about the situation of Pakistan, is invited to join in. Lawyers, members of civil society will also join us. You can bring flowers and candles with you. For details, you can contact Ali Awan: 0321 8540836

News report- Man dies trying to get food for family

A news report from the daily Express about a man dying trying to obtain food for his family. Just one unnoticed example of the tribulations our countrymen are undergoing as a result of Musharraf's much-touted 'economic growth'.

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Retired Pakistani General leads Anti-Musharraf movement


A retired Pakistani General who opposes President Pervez Musharraf said he would "not be surprised" if Musharraf had engineered terror attacks to manipulate his image in the West.Former Lieutenant General Faiz Ali Chishti heads the influential Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Society, which last week issued a blunt open letter signed by more than 100 senior officers calling on Musharraf to quit.

The statement fuelled Western speculation that Musharraf may be losing support in the military following his resignation as army chief in November, a potential blow with parliamentary elections only three weeks away.

"Musharraf is an intellectually dishonest person. He is a clever ruler, who makes the US and the West believe that they can only effectively deal with Al-Qaeda as long as he is in power," Chishti told AFP in an interview."But what is Al-Qaeda and who are Taliban? I will not be surprised if this clever ruler is behind all suicide attacks," he said.

Pakistan has been buffetted by more than 50 suicide attacks in the past year, culminating in the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on December 27, which led to planned January 8 general elections being delayed.

The government blames Bhutto's killing on an allegedly Al-Qaeda-linked tribal warlord, Baitullah Mehsud, but many of Bhutto's supporters have accused the government or parts of the military of involvement.

Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999, has rejected those claims, and last week he angrily brushed aside the calls for his resignation by Chishti and the other generals."They are insignificant personalities," Musharraf told the Financial Times in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "Most of them are ones who served under me and I kicked them out... They are insignificant. I am not even bothered by them."

In another interview with the BBC he said that the retired officers had no clout with today's 500,000-strong, nuclear-armed military.

But Chishti -- a former federal minister and the one-time corps commander for Rawalpindi, a key post in the Pakistani army -- urged current and former servicemen to push for change."My request as head of the society, is that retired General Pervez Musharraf should also step down as President," Chishti said."We request all ex-servicemen and even those, who are in uniform to vote for persons, who are fit to do something for this country and people."

Chishti himself is no stranger to military rulers, having supervised the imposition of martial law in July 1977 in Pakistan. He went on to become a close associate of late dictator General Zia-ul-Haq.But he said that the situation now was different, partly because of Musharraf's close ties to Washington.

"Musharraf is in league with the US and the West for the sake of his own survival. The majority of Pakistanis feel he... has been taking illegal, unconstitutional and unlawful actions for his survival," Chishti said.

He rejected Western "propaganda" about Musharraf being able to safeguard Pakistan's nuclear weapons from Islamic extremists, saying it was the army's job."Is he carrying these nuclear weapons in his pocket? The answer is no," he said.

Chishti also accused Musharraf of "taking sides" and campaigning for the former ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Q party ahead of the elections on February 18.

The government meanwhile has rejected the ex-servicemen's claims. Information Minister Nisar Memon told state media that their demands for Musharraf to resign were unconstitutional, adding that he was "dismayed" by their "lack of understanding of national issues."

How to steal an election

From Abuja to Islamabad, autocratic regimes have become adept at manipulating “free and fair elections” to stay in power. Here’s how they do it—and how to stop them.

Control the process

How it’s done: It’s much easier to steal an election when there are fewer checks on executive power and no legal framework for resolving disputes. When the laws are vague, election commissions are often powerless to confront a powerful central leader. “When you have a partial constitution that doesn’t lay out the details of election law properly, that’s a problem,” says Chris Hennemeyer, director of African programs at the election-monitoring group IFES, adding, “It’s a tried-and-true technique to stack the electoral commission with your cronies.”

Real-world example: Kenya’s constitution invests an enormous amount of power in the executive branch. This allowed President Mwai Kibaki to create a vast system of patronage throughout the government based largely on tribal ties. The head of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Samuel Kivuitu, has recently admitted that he was pressured by the president’s office to announce results before he could verify their authenticity.

How to stop it: An independent judicial branch that is capable of arbitrating electoral disputes without partisan pressure is a must. It also helps if polls are managed by independent election commissions rather than interior ministries.

Manipulate the media

How it’s done: In countries with little or no independent media outlets, opportunities are rife for leaders to use state-controlled media to broadcast propaganda or discredit the opposition. Crackdowns on independent media are also common in the run-up to elections.

Real-world example: In the months leading up to the recent presidential election in Georgia, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s government shut down Imedi TV, an opposition-friendly television station founded by one of the president’s rivals and managed by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Footage of Saakashvili’s campaign appearances dominated news programs on state television. The incumbent went on to win handily in an election deemed fair by international observers.

How to stop it: The proliferation of Internet news sources and text messaging can make it harder to control the flow of information, a fact exploited by Ukrainian bloggers during that country’s “Orange Revolution.” However, as bloggers critical of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak learned this year, they are not immune to government crackdowns or jail time. There are low-tech solutions as well. Since World War II, the U.S. government’s Voice of America service has provided relatively unbiased information to citizens without access to free media.

Keep out the observers

How it’s done: In close elections, a popular technique is to identify which polling stations are likely to be swing votes and replace trained election officials with government loyalists at the last minute. If the official staff can be kept quiet for long enough, the deception won’t be discovered by the opposition until it’s too late. Another common technique is to threaten, blackmail, or discredit domestic election observers, or simply deny them access to polling stations, to give government loyalists space to do their work.

Real-world example: During the 2005 Egyptian parliamentary elections, judges at individual polling stations made seemingly arbitrary decisions about whether to allow outside monitoring. The result? Some stations were monitored and some were not. Monitors were beaten by police in one southern city, and eight were arrested and released elsewhere. Those who were granted access recorded a litany of violations.

How to stop it: Observers from international organizations are harder to remove and less susceptible to threats from local law enforcement personnel. However, it is often impossible to bring in sufficient numbers of foreign staff to monitor every polling place, and even foreign observers often have trouble getting the access they need.

Misreport results

How it’s done: It’s not a slam dunk to cheat on the count at polling stations, since they are often monitored by international observers or civil-society groups. Unfortunately, official results are generally tabulated by officials at centralized locations away from public scrutiny, making deliberate miscounting all too easy. Another popular technique is to tabulate results from “ghost” voting stations, says Pat Merloe, director of electoral programs at the National Democratic Institute. This type of fraud can be risky. The public usually notices when officially reported results vastly differ from polling conducted prior to elections.

Real-world example: Nadia Diuk, senior director for Europe and Eurasia at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), relays a tale from Azerbaijan’s 2000 elections: “The light went out in the room where the counting was to take place, and the flashlights of the observers just caught sight of a bundle of ballots sailing through the air to land on the counting table.”

How to stop it: In one innovative scheme, Kosovar democracy activists monitored polling places during assembly elections last November and used mobile phones to text unofficial results to a central server, creating a tally that could be compared to officially released results. As it turned out, the tally was within half a percent of the election commission’s own numbers.

Foster incompetence and chaos

How it’s done: “Arguably, Africa’s foremost election thieves have been the Nigerians, world famous for their 419 scams and oil-induced corruption,” says Dave Peterson, also at NED. The trick is to create so much chaos that nobody can say for sure who really won.

Real-world example: Nigeria’s 2007 national and state elections take the chaos prize. Ballots arrived late to polling stations, if at all, or were printed with missing or incorrect information. Polling places and procedures were changed at the last minute. With security lax, reports were rampant of militants harassing voters and youth gangs breaking into polling places and making off with ballot boxes. “One couldn’t say the government controlled the process as much as it simply sabotaged it,” Peterson says.

How to stop it: The best way to stop it, says Peterson, is once again to establish and fund a “genuinely independent electoral commission” that is responsible for ensuring that the process flows smoothly.

Resort to the crude stuff

How it’s done: “My old boss once said, ‘Only amateurs steal an election on election day,’” says Hennemeyer. Controlling the process itself is generally far more effective and difficult to prevent than blatantly stealing an election at the polling-station level. But if all else fails, some governments are still not above using such tried-and-true methods as intimidating voters and prospective candidates.

Real-world example: A favorite tactic in Egypt is to deploy riot police in strategic polling locations to keep out voters for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood—while state employees arrive in buses and are ushered in en masse. In 2005, a bloody showdown in the streets of Alexandria between government-backed thugs wielding machetes and Brotherhood supporters seeking to cast their votes became international news, embarrassing the regime.

How to stop it: Thankfully, this type of blatant election-stealing is less common than it used to be in many parts of the world. This is due less to governments’ becoming more honest than to increased vigilance by citizens’ groups and the media. Hennemeyer describes the changes he has seen in Africa: “While there were some horrible elections in Africa [in 2007], there were some pretty good ones too. It’s almost as if there’s a new generation of people who have woken up to the fact the Africans have been robbed of their political rights since independence.”

Monday, January 28, 2008

One party president


On October 6, 2007 it became 'official' that Musharraf had been elected by the Electoral College as president for the next five years. Quite apart from the fact that at time that very 'election' was under a serious challenge in the SC through a number of cases including one that I was arguing, the voting in that election requires serious notice.
The point requiring our present attention is not that legally it was entirely a flawed exercise devoid of jurisdiction and appropriate compliance with the Constitution; it was manifestly suffering from many legal infirmities. So much so that in the 36 amendments made in the Constitution during the earlier days after enforcement of emergency by Musharraf 17, are with respect to his candidature as president and 4 with respect to the courts and judges who were examining that matter at that time. However as this topic has been examined by me in my prior columns, it is the political aspects of this manoeuvre that require a deeper analysis.

It is on record that this process was totally boycotted by the Opposition. The MMA plus other parties had resigned from the assemblies and the EC; the PPP had also totally abstained. With the result that the voting was around 55% of the total vote which is about the voting strength of Punjab. The two western provinces' majority did not vote for him nor did rural Sindh which is generally represented by PPP. So the voting for Musharraf is entirely because of its representation in Punjab and the work of PML-Q. More odious to any one who looks at this development objectively in a historical context is the indisputable fact that this process wholly relies on just one province in Pakistan. The 1971 creation of Bangladesh because of a spate of follies by the military strongman general Yahya are a vivid reminder of what yet could happen in this country.
In political terms it can hardly be called an election for the president of the country when only one of the four provincial units is voting! Does it not prove that Musharraf's entire political constituency is thus just of one party, essentially hailing from just one province, and which has been aiding the regime in power that came to power in 1999 through a coup? Does it also not prove that against the letter and spirit of the Constitution, it has now attempted to cement the genesis of the break up of Federation whose unity he is supposed to represent?

Article 41 provides that the president should represent unquestionably the four units of the Republic and not just one. This provision demands that the president:
" Represent the 'unity' of the Federation.
" Be genuinely elected by the four province's majority vote in the EC.
" Must be above party politics.
In terms of political norms that govern elections Musharraf's manoeuvres of October 6 are the negation of the democratic process. It is an undeniable fact that not only Musharraf went to numerous political meetings of the PML-Q during 2007, a year of great political turmoil and extreme polarisation, even after the announcement of election he has gone around the country seeking voting preference for the ruling PML-Q under the garb of 'continuity' of his policies. Under a parliamentary system what priority does a president have to ask voters to give? Which parlimentary system allows this to go unchallenged? Does it happen in Canada or Australia or anywhere in the world may I ask?

When the Democrats pulled out of the Michigan primary, and Hillary Clinton's name did appear on the ballot, no contest was legally held, when it could have been so done, since everyone abhors in the US a one sides nominated beauty contest rather then an election which by its nature is a contested matter. As a consequence it is trite knowledge that in Pakistan the presidential camp is facing a political dilemma. How to regain the popularity of Musharraf without affecting the vote bank of the formerly ruling party PML-Q which cast its ballot in that farcical process of October 6, 2007?
According to well-placed sources in the US Musharraf has asked his senior civilian and military advisors to handle this uphill task with extra care in highlighting the president's 'impartiality'. But a question arises: how is that compatible with regard to elections when by doing so it would affect the political standing of the Q-league which is already being hard hit by the opposition parties' allegations of being the torchbearer of a military general? Would it not suffer further political damage? So the question that the pundits of the government have to respond to is this: while in theory the president is not supporting any of the political parties, all major opposition parties, PML-N and PPP are insisting that PML-Q is enjoying an overwhelming backing of Musharraf.
The presidential aides to hide the real truth of his own unpopularity have instead informed the president that people blamed their problems on the five-year rule led by the PML-Q and not of Musharraf's making. But the public perception about the presidential backing for the so-called King's party is axiomatic; the party could be equally harmed by tarnished image of the president, especially after the killing of Benazir who most in the country believe was murdered by the incumbent regime.

The dismissal of three main petitions by the reshaped Supreme Court by Musharraf in the post-emergency era against the legitimacy of the candidature of General (Retd) Musharraf for the presidential election while holding the army chief post has helped the general in an ad hoc time frame in a superficial legal sense but politically the fundamental questions of his illegitimacy remain.

Prior to the last hearing, an 11-member Bench of the Apex Court was proceeding with the petitions till November 2 when on date the hearing was adjourned until November 5. But on November 3, the state of emergency coupled with a PCO was declared in the country. The PCO suspended the Constitution of 1973 and called for taking fresh oath by the Superior Court judges under it. Resultantly 65 out of 90 judges refused. How a general can do so with the regard to the Constitution which under prevalent civilised political norms can be done only by a two-third majority of the people sitting in the assemblies? I leave that question for anyone who cares to defend this action of violating the Constitution. The legal community here at Harvard and the West Coast and at such places as Stanford and UCLA were stunned when I asked politely if they are prepared to accept that one day their chief of joint staff says, "I make these changes in the Constitution of 1787 rather than the two-third majority principle that lies embedded in the American Constitution because they aid my conceptions of democracy?"
The 1999 coup has assumed by now several times the office of 'president'; yet it is amusingly said by and on his behalf that it is only his second term! Indisputably he assumed such roles for himself, under rules devised by him at least three times before 2007. So it is the fourth time that such responsibilities are being assumed by him. Whatever policy-oriented view one may adopt, I cannot think any lawyer worth his salt can misinterpret 'facts'!

Musharraf finding that he does not have to confront Benazir any longer has made another U-turn vis-à-vis Nawaz Sharif to float the idea of a 'national government'. The move is a prelude to postponement of the forthcoming elections one more time as the regime spy sleuths have concluded that they cannot 'arrange' a sizeable number of seats for the Q-league and other collaborators even after record rigging. The elections may be postponed for a few months, then for a year and later the regime may find ways to extend itself for 4-5 years.

Even if we accept the varying interpretations being put on the causation of BB's murder, it cannot be denied that the assassins were seen by the world at just a few feet from her on December 27, 2007. Who allowed this to happen? On December 30 Musharraf did say that she killed herself. Let us agree on further implications that Musharraf wants us to agree to: Yes, Benazir killed herself by hitting the car's sunroof lever. Yes, she was warned not to hold a political rally. Yes, no state agency was involved in her gruesome murder. Yes, the Sharif brothers went into exile on their own request. Yes, several civil society activists, judges and lawyers deserve to be kept in detention. Yes it is necessary to put in detention the deposed CJ, the former acting CJ Rana Bhagwandas, and many more in Lahore and Karachi. Yes, many Pakistanis, particularly of legal fraternity are extremists and terrorists. Yes, Pakistan's survival as a nation is dependent on American goodwill and fighting its war on terror.

Does it make any honest sense I ask my American friends, to agree to such entirely false premises and preposterous hypotheses and yet appear to be serious about evaluation of the genesis of the crisis now waiting to explode?

I am informed that many of my recent columns appearing in this paper on the crisis in Pakistan are being taken as written testimony in the Congressional hearings now scheduled to be held from this week in Washington. While Lantos chairs the House Foreign Relations Committee. Congressman Gary Ackerman chairs the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. Since Ackerman is a leading critic of Musharraf government, the resolution he has introduced has alarmed the government's supporters in Washington, as they fear that it may seek new restrictions against Islamabad. In addition the Congress already has two pending resolutions on Pakistan, both strongly supporting pro-democracy forces in the country. All these three resolutions seek punitive actions against the government for suppressing political forces and placing new restrictions on the media and the judiciary.

These three resolutions reaffirm the US commitment to assisting the people of Pakistan in combating terrorism, and promoting a free and democratic Pakistan. Further, these measures express support for freedom of media, the ability of political parties to express their views without restriction and the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan. In US relevant officials and think thanks are alarmed at the continuous state of instability in that country in which it is the presidency supported by Washington that is considered by many to be a major if not the main cause.

The president is now distrusted by the world and according to three recent polls conducted by reputable American institutions. His stature has fallen so much that he is treated dismissively even by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Shaukat Aziz, his imported PM has disappeared from the scene, even losing out to an ordinary banker - coincidentally from India - for the top job in his alma mater, Citibank. Pakistan politically and economically is in a mess, its own army, for the first time, is seeing its credibility, power, its pre-eminent position in Pakistan's society and power structure questioned and losing fast its respect in public estimation.

(The writer is a Barrister at Law (UK), Senior Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan and Professor Harvard University)

A Hollow Political Economy?

PRESIDENT Pervez Musharraf’s promise to a gathering of businessmen in Karachi for coming down heavy on the ‘miscreants’ planning to disrupt next month’s parliamentary elections, yet again carries a hollow ring.

At a time when the poorest of the poor have recently braved an atta shortage crisis, compounding the quality of their lives beyond the electricity shortages and mounting inflation, the challenge to the economy comes significantly more from its questionable handling by the government rather than the fallout from the mounting political challenge.

Mr Musharraf, in charge of Pakistan for more than eight years, appears eager to reassure nervous investors of his determination to ensure relative stability during a potentially turbulent election period.

It is difficult to predict exactly what emerges from a likely controversial national election, with opposition politicians already questioning the neutrality of the process, not to forget the neutrality of the present-day caretaker regime and the president’s own position.Elections taking place not just after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination but indeed also after its chaotic fallout and the bloody violence following her tragic departure, will indeed be a high-risk game.

Mr Musharraf’s decision to open front after front since making the then Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry ‘non-functional’ in March, has only demolished his once established image of being politically above board and well-meaning. History has demonstrated time and again that the moral high ground once lost by a leader is seldom regained, unlike the possible reversal of territorial loss.

It is all too easy to describe the violence after Ms Bhutto’s death as nothing more than an emotional and frenzied response by angry demonstrators to a highly tragic event. Another way of looking at what instigated this violence may well be exactly what lies behind Pakistan’s increasing propensity for instability, fuelled by the way the economy has progressed in recent years.

Pundits in high places of economic thinking such as the mighty ministry of finance in Islamabad, may well be all too eager to claim success for overseeing a so-called bold economic recovery. Parameters such as rising liquid currency reserves and mounting economic growth rates have often been cited as supporting evidence. Added evidence has been drawn from quarters such as the privatisation ministry to reinforce the success story. It is undoubtedly true that there are more visible symbols of affluence in Pakistan today, ranging from many more luxury cars — including a few Rolls-Royce — to the large-scale proliferation of mobile cellular phones.

But anecdotal evidence suggests a number of equally profound gaps in this widely touted economic success story, with alarming linkages to Pakistan’s future political outlook. If the economic growth trends were ever calculated for individual provinces and districts within those provincial bounds, there is a good chance that parts of Punjab could emerge as the land of high hope and success against the rest of the country — with the possible exception of Karachi — being areas of despair, disorder and above all shrinking economic opportunities.

Another way of looking at this distorted picture may well be the number of those who remain below the poverty line. Even if the government’s estimates, which are not accepted by independent pundits, are taken for the record, at least a quarter of Pakistan’s population of at least 165 million live below the poverty line. The figure of more than 40 million Pakistanis living below the poverty line exceeds the size of the entire population of a number of countries around the world.

Faced with this distorted pattern of economic development, both across regions and among classes, it is not surprising that the worst manifestations of political turmoil of the kind seen recently in Pakistan, have taken place in the country’s non-Punjab regions, essentially the NWFP where militancy has spread to the settled regions, Balochistan where in the aftermath of Nawab Akbar Bugti’s killing it remains a recurring trend, and now, after Ms Bhutto’s assassination, the bloody violence in the interior parts of Sindh.

By contrast, it is not surprising that Punjab — the visibly fastest growing province of Pakistan — is also home to the largest community of pro-Musharraf politicians from the PML-Q.

The pattern of recurring violence seen in Pakistan recently underlines a fundamental and obvious point. People who do not see hope for a better future may be relatively more prone to joining waves of unrest and disorder.

In spite of the obvious connect between politics and Pakistan’s future economic challenges, there may be no immediate economic solutions to dealing with this profoundly complex issue. The effect of a set of economic choices followed over eight years under President Musharraf’s rule, cannot be undone in the potentially turbulent weeks or even months that lie ahead for Pakistan.

Without delicate handling, an election that lacks credibility will immediately evoke a possibly violent public response from Pakistan’s opposition leaders including some who would be encouraged to see more public response to their cause after the recent unrest in the country. If the government moves ahead in dealing a crushing blow to violent unrest as promised by President Musharraf, there is no guarantee that the situation will not aggravate further.

In the short term, the best option for the government must be all about setting the pace for a political transition which is fair, neutral, above board and, above all, free of bias in favour or against any individual or political group.

With official credibility already in tatters, it is difficult to imagine how President Musharraf can become a neutral arbiter of Pakistan’s national affairs, following a year in which his political battles appear to have primarily been about saving his own career as well as his self-created ruling order. Once the dust settles after the polls, a new Pakistani regime will have to quickly undo some of the worst legacies of economic policies in recent years. Diverting economic and developmental resources away from Punjab towards Pakistan’s impoverished regions may well be a key priority, all for the sake of preserving, protecting and promoting the cause of national unity.

In contrast to Pakistan’s economic picture under President Musharraf’s rule which has received a lift from US-led generous western support, there are huge gaps in the country’s economic structure. Areas such as the number of income taxpayers, staggering at less than one per cent of the population, say much about the failure to undertake structural reforms with long-term benefits.

Other distortions include the controversy surrounding public services such as government-owned hospitals and schools which present a pathetic picture which remains largely unchanged from the days preceding Mr Musharraf’s rule. Economic recovery may have indeed taken place if statistical evidence is taken as the guide. But the recovery is far from real when judged against the quality of life for average Pakistanis, especially those living in areas outside the economic heartland. The recent riots are just one of the many eye-openers to prove the point.

(Courtesy DAWN, Opinion, Jan 28th)

Judges under Siege

Qazi Faez Isa

CARRY a placard — “Release Justice Rana Bhagwandas” — and you will be thrown into the slammer. FIR No.13/08 lodged at the Clifton Town police station confirms the highhandedness of Musharraf’s despotic regime.

Justice Rana Bhagwandas started his judicial career as a civil judge at the age of 24. In 1994 he was elevated to the high court and then to the Supreme Court where he eventually became the senior-most judge, serving as Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan, whenever the Chief Justice was out of the country. He earned the reputation of hard work, dedication, clear thinking, impartiality and fairness. Upon retirement it has been the practice of the court to give the retiring judge a Full Court Reference, but in the building that now reminds one of the Supreme Court, traditions too have been banished.

On Nov 3, 2007, Justice Bhagwandas the senior-most judge of the Supreme Court was illegally incarcerated. After his retirement he was made a prisoner in his own home in Karachi. He caused offence because he did not break his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan” when another was grinding his boot into it.
“The people should fight for the law as for their city wall” (Heraclitus, 5th century BC).

Justice Bhagwandas during his meritorious career spanning 41 years, decided thousands of cases, yet for this great judge who did not prostrate before a dictator there was no justice. Citizens, however, wanted to honour him and express their gratitude. They assembled outside his residence, held candles and flowers, and called for his release. Amongst them were recently-married Salahuddin Ahmed, barrister-at-law, Asad Umar, chief executive of Engro Chemicals Pakistan Limited, and Kamran Noorani, owner of Pakistan Law House.

The ‘law enforcement agencies’ doing another’s bidding in vulturine fashion made off with the citizens. But infamy did not stop there. The candle, flowers and placard holders have been charged under Sections 147 and 148 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) for “rioting” and “rioting armed with deadly weapon”. To constitute “rioting”, there must be force and violence (Section 146 PPC).These conscientious citizens upon being convicted may be imprisoned for three years. Is this the republic that Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted to create? “The idea was that we should have a state in which we could live and breathe as free men” (Quaid’s address to civil and military officers, Karachi, Oct 11, 1947). Instead, grovelling before the dictator and forced to accept the odious PCO oath of personal loyalty is the only guarantee to live and breathe freely.

The orders for lodging FIR No.13/08 must have come from the very top because Salahuddin Ahmed’s father is none other than Chief Justice Sabihuddin Ahmed, who has been prevented from carrying out his duties since Nov 3. Overnight the chief justice of the province is controlled by a foot constable. Light recedes, justice is eclipsed and darkness descends. The beast is born. “Law alone can give us freedom” (Goethe) and without it we are shackled.

The state itself violates the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, including the right to “freedom of speech and expression” (Article 19), “freedom of assembly” (Article 16), the inviolability of the “dignity of man” (Article 14). Under Musharraf and his neutered caretakers anyone exercising his or her fundamental rights is liable to be arrested and imprisoned for a very long time. “When dictators and tyrants seek to destroy the freedoms of men, their first target is the legal profession and through it the rule of law.” (Leon Jaworski).

In Pakistan, the Constitution stipulates, that sovereignty “belongs to Almighty Allah alone” and “wherein the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured”. A land “dedicated to the preservation of democracy achieved by the unremitting struggle against oppression and tyranny”. Abrogation and subversion of the Constitution is categorised as “high treason”.

Justice (adl o insaf) lies at the heart of Islam. Without justice, nations perish. Justice predates democracy and representative government. A candlelit vigil for the release of a judge who spent his entire life in the service of Pakistan is manufactured into a serious ‘crime’. This happened in the heart of the largest metropolis of Pakistan, and respectable members of society were targeted in the full glare of the media, but far worse treatment was meted out to people living away.

In interior Sindh, thousands of FIRs have been registered reportedly against half a million members of the Pakistan People’s Party. After the assassination of Benazir Bhutto the all-pervasive Police and Rangers disappeared for days, and advantage was taken by criminal elements. It now appears that this was done to help elect members of the quisling League.

FIRs have been lodged on the basis of ‘instructions from above’ and compliance made necessary to retain employment, but irreconcilable anomalies reveal the truth. Two representative examples put to rest the neutrality of the caretakers. The mukhtiarkar and the assistant mukhtiarkar both lodged FIRs (Nos.3/08 and 4/08) in respect of the very same incident against Abdul Jalil Memon, PPP’s candidate for PS 84.

FIRs against Haji Usman Jalbani, PPP’s candidate for PS 88, were lodged in four different police stations (Keti Bundar, Gora Bari, Garo and Gharo) pertaining to offences that took place at the same time, despite the fact that a day would be spent travelling between these areas. Coincidentally, six immediate family members of a caretaker minister are contesting on Q League tickets, including PS 84 and PS 88 constituencies.

Tainted self-seekers grasp their opportunity. Rather than apply salve to the raw wounds of the PPP, kerosene is sprinkled. People are being pushed towards intolerable injustices.Constitution is the force which coalesces and forges the nation. An iron grip must stay the hand of the terrorist as he does not have the right to take life and because the Constitution mandates that “no person shall be deprived of life” (Article 9). Forced closure of CD and barber shops must be stopped because the Constitution grants every citizen the freedom of trade, business and profession (Article 18).

“Obedience to the Constitution is the inviolable obligation of every citizen wherever he may be and of every other person for the time being in Pakistan” (Article 5). But General Musharraf declared war on the Constitution and its custodians. The Taliban and the terrorists have followed suit. Until the Constitution and the judiciary are restored, terrorism, oppression, tyranny, injustice and anarchy will continue.

Terrorists pierce the body. America’s trusted lieutenant whips the spirit. Pharaonic arrogance preserves the shell, mummified. A withered, shrivelled curiosity…

(Courtesy DAWN, Opinion, January 28th)

Zardari condemns victimisation of PPP workers

(Courtesy DAWN)
The Pakistan People’s Party has condemned what it called continuing victimisation of party workers as “a planned and orchestrated pre-poll rigging” aimed at forcing activists to keep away from elections.

“The registration of new cases and reopening of several years old cases to implicate party leaders and workers was clearly designed to put pressure and to disable them on the eve of elections,” PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said in a statement on Sunday.

He pointed out that arrest warrants for a dozen of PPP leaders, including six former MPAs, were issued in Karachi on Saturday for allegedly creating a law and order situation in the city after the murder of party’s Sindh information secretary Munawar Suharwardy three years ago.

Former MPAs Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, Mazhar Marvi, Sassui Palejo, Mehreen Bhutto and Sharfunissa Leghari were declared absconders, their names ordered to be published in newspapers and police directed to arrest them.

The Sindh police registered cases against over 100 party workers on charges of blocking the Dadu-Larkana road and burning tyres on Friday night in protest against the arrest of PPP workers.

Using blind FIRs as a pretext, police raided homes of workers and misbehaved with women. Thousands of workers were previously nominated in criminal cases following disturbances in the wake of martyrdom of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

He said that under such circumstances when candidates and voters were subjected to intimidation and complaints against it remained unattended with a powerless Election Commission, the elections would neither be free nor fair. He demanded release of workers and withdrawal of fictitious cases against them and an end to the practice of registering blind FIRs for using them against political workers later.

The party called upon the international community to press the Musharraf regime to desist from electoral manipulation by arresting and intimidating party workers and candidates, he said.

Resign Musharraf, Resign!

( - I am now a serial protester, it seems. And among my English friends increasingly the butt of jokes. Three demonstrations in the UK since October, and several others – including some of a distinctly Monty Python-esque bent - during my years of
living in Pakistan. I have spent many a pre-protest evening in Islamabad quibbling with activists over the minutiae: what the placards should say (no "death to..." anyone, I would insist) or whether to allow effigy burning, a Pakistani protest staple ("Jem, you don't understand how politics works here - please, just a burning Bush").

Tomorrow at midday I will once again be positioning myself outside 10 Downing Street, to await the arrival of retired General and self- appointed President Pervez Musharraf, who I intend to greet with lusty jeers, provocative placards and slogans that almost rhyme. We have agreed that we don't like the commonly used kuta, meaning dog. Monkey, fox, hyena and, worst of all (for a pork-phobic nation), swine have also been banned.

I expect most of you will be thinking: "Aren't demonstrations a bit old fashioned and irrelevant? Can they actually achieve anything?"

It is 40 years since 1968, "The Year That Rocked The World", when mass protests erupted across the globe, in France, America, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Belgium, Poland, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. While none of those demonstrations achieved their immediate stated aim, cumulatively they changed the world more profoundly than those involved could ever have imagined.

Popular protests rarely achieve much on their own. Hillary Clinton had a point when she said that "[Martin Luther] King's dream began to be realised when U.S. President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a President to get it done." She was lambasted by her Democratic rivals for having demeaned the great civil rights icon. But she was right that, while there is no doubt King was brilliant at mobilising a movement, as well as an outstanding orator and inspirational activist, his real achievement was the shifting of American consciousness. This created the environment in which it was
possible for Johnson to pass the humanitarian Civil Rights Act which resulted in the greatest social change in 20th-century America.

The effects of protests are rarely immediate or even measurable. What demonstrations do is to change the weather. And the weather changes the landscape. Protests invariably move from the extreme to the mainstream.

Sometimes, though, they really do what they say on the banners. Gandhi's march to the sea to make salt marked the beginning of the push to remove the British from India; the Suffragettes did get the vote for women; the Peasant's Revolt did change the feudal system; and the Anti-Slavery Movement did do away with slavery. They are all
examples of what demonstrations hope to achieve: the mass power of the individually powerless.

Tomorrow I will be protesting Gordon Brown's continued support for Pakistan's dictator. I will be joined by politicians, lawyers, doctors, human rights activists, journalists and ordinary Pakistanis who want to know what happened to New Labour's "ethical foreign
policy". Our equivalents in Pakistan have been denied the same right to protest. Many hundreds remain in prison - some tortured. We can't read about it because the media in Pakistan remains restricted.

Brown and Musharraf are planning to discuss democracy, counter- terrorism and the upcoming Pakistani elections. We, the crowd outside Number 10, will be there exercising freedom of speech and practicing real democracy. Inside they will only be going through the motions.

How can they seriously discuss the "democratic process in Pakistan" with straight faces when 60 percent of the Superior Court judges have been dismissed and many are still under house arrest? How can "free and fair elections" take place in three weeks under the supervision of hand-picked substitute judges, a pet caretaker government and a bogus
election Commission? Why is our Government supporting and our taxpayers funding a counter-terrorism strategy that has encouraged terrorism? Above all, why has our Prime Minister chosen to host a constitutionally illegal ruler who has lost the support of Pakistanis both in Britain and abroad, and who is seen as the cause not the solution to the country's problems?

Every time Gordon Brown shakes hands with and gives tea to a dictator, in some small way, like protests, it changes the weather. If you shake hands with one, you shake hands with them all. It's pointless refusing to be in the same country as Mugabe, if you invite Musharraf into your home.

Wouldn't it be nice if, on hearing our shouts, Brown came to the window of Number 10, waved cordially at the rabble outside and announced: "Actually, you are right." To be followed from within by pleasing sounds of scuffle and outrage with Brown emerging to join our final chorus of "Resign Musharraf, Resign!"

It is more likely that we will just make ourselves heard. But who knows? 2008 may yet turn out to be Pakistan's 1968. Inshallah.

Monday, midday, Downing Street. Effigies supplied.

[Ms. Jemima (Goldsmith) Khan is a leader of the Free Pakistan Movement
(FPM) based in London, UK.]

The military millionaires who control Pakistan Inc

Elliot Wilson (The Spectator - UK)

Elliot Wilson says Pakistan ’s economy is dominated by a ruthless business conglomerate that owns everything from factories and bakeries to farmland and golf courses: The Army.

Sometime in late 2004, Pakistan 's all-powerful army made a curious decision. Under mounting pressure from London and Washington to capture Osama bin Laden, believed to be hiding in Baluchistan, Islamabad 's fighting forces instead turned their attention to a far more profitable venture: building golf courses.

In itself this wasn’t particularly unusual. With 620,000 soldiers, Pakistan boasts the world’s seventh-largest standing army, but its senior officers long ago realised the perks to be gained from commercial ventures. Since independence in 1947, the army has steadily intertwined itself into Pakistan’s economy: so much so that it’s hard to tell where the military stops and any semblance of free-market capitalism begins.

All too often, there is no dividing line. In her 2007 book Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy Dr Ayesha Siddiqa exposes the rampant commercialism pervading every aspect of the country’s military forces, until recently headed by President Pervaiz Musharraf. Dr Siddiqa, a former researcher with the country’s naval forces, estimates the military’s net worth at more than £10 billion — roughly four times the total foreign direct investment generated by Islamabad in 2007. She found that the army owns 12 per cent of the country’s land, its holdings being mostly fertile soil in the eastern Punjab . Two thirds of that land is in the hands of senior current and former officials, mostly brigadiers, major-generals and generals. The most senior 100 military officials are estimated to be worth, at the very least, £3.5 billion.

Many of the country’s largest corporations are also controlled by the military, thanks largely to an opaque network of powerful ‘foundations’ originally set up to look after the pension needs of army personnel. The largest three — the Fauji, Shaheen and Bahria foundations, controlled by the army, air force and navy respectively — control more than 100 separate commercial entities involved in everything from cement to cereal production. Only nine have ever published partial financial accounts, and all are ultimately controlled by the Ministry of Defence, which oversees all of the military’s commercial ventures.

The Fauji foundation, the largest of the lot, is estimated by Siddiqa to be worth several billion pounds. It operates a security force (allowing serving army personnel to double in their spare time as private security agents), an oil terminal and a phosphate joint venture with the Moroccan government. Elsewhere, the Army Welfare Trust — a foundation set up in 1971 to identify potentially profitable ventures for the military — runs one of the country’s largest lenders, Askari Commercial Bank, along with an airline, a travel agency and even a stud farm. Then there is the National Logistic Cell, Pakistan’s largest shipper and freight transporter (and the country’s largest corporation), which builds roads, constructs bridges and stores vast quantities of the country’s wheat reserves.

In short, the military’s presence is all-pervasive. Bread is supplied by military-owned bakeries, fronted by civilians. Army-controlled banks take deposits and disburse loans. Up to one third of all heavy manufacturing and 7 per cent of private assets are reckoned to be in army hands. As for prime real estate, a major-general can expect to receive on retirement a present of 240 acres of prime farmland, worth on average £550,000, as well an urban real estate plot valued at £700,000.

Unsurprisingly, the military is loath to release details of its commercial operations. The average Pakistani citizen earns just £1,500 a year, making his country poorer than all but 50 of the world’s nations. Most of the military’s junior officers and other ranks live in squalid tents pitched by the side of main roads, even in the capital Islamabad . Revealing to them that the top brass in their air-conditioned, top-of-the-range Mercedes are worth £35 million each (a few are believed to be dollar billionaires including, it is quietly suggested, Musharraf) would probably create widespread unrest. Little wonder that Dr Siddiqa’s book is banned in the country — and that Musharraf was so reluctant to take off his uniform and declare himself a civilian president.
Financial autonomy has also engendered in the military a dangerous sense of entitlement. When any premier or leading politician attempts to limit the army’s power, or even emasculate it, they get slapped down. In 1990 Benazir Bhutto, during her first stint as premier, made a concerted attempt to ‘secularise’ the army, installing non-army personnel at the highest level. Shortly afterwards, her government was forced out. She tried again in May 2006, joining with another former civilian leader, Nawaz Sharif, to issue a Charter of Democracy designed to reduce the economic power of the armed forces. Yet with Bhutto’s assassination, the latest move to tame the armed forces has again faltered — a rather convenient situation for the military.

It’s hard to imagine any individual or political body summoning up enough power or courage to challenge the army head-on. Each year the military gobbles up a bit more land, diversifies into new markets and industries and steadily consolidates power in the key sectors of agriculture, energy, natural resources, logistics and construction.

On the rare occasions when any constitutional body has stood its ground, the army has given it short shrift. In 2005, the Fauji foundation was asked by the elected parliament why it had sold a sugar mill at a ludicrously low price to senior army personnel. The Ministry of Defence refused to reveal any details of the deal. When the Auditor-General’s department questioned why the army was building golf courses — rather than attempting to capture bin Laden — its question was ignored. Yet the Punjab government had that year willingly handed over, for free, 30 acres of prime rural land worth more than £600,000 to the army, which promptly built a driving-range and an 18-hole golf course. Such ‘presents’ to the military are usually returned with interest, with senior civilian officials often being guaranteed a secure retirement on the board of one or more army-controlled ventures. Craven and submissive attitudes have thoroughly pervaded the political system, which defers to the military at every turn: little wonder that senior officers have so little respect for their civilian peers. Other countries have armies, but Pakistan’s army has a country.

Absolute power, of course, corrupts absolutely. It also engenders a sense of invulnerability — that the wielder of the power can get away with anything. This certainly seems to be the case in Pakistan . Land is being requisitioned left, right and centre across the country. In the financial centre of Karachi , the army has built eight petrol stations on land appropriated from the state. In 2004, the Karachi government again willingly gave land worth £35 million to the military, just because they wanted it. These are just two examples among many.

The military has also begun to act in the manner of a feudal landlord. When landless peasants in central Punjab complained in 2001 that the army had changed the status of the land on which they depended for their subsistence (forcing them to pay rent in cash, rather than working the land on a sharecropping basis) the army cracked down, beating many and leaving eight dead. At one point, Dr Siddiqa quotes a naval officer who questions why landless peasants should have any rights in relation to the land they till. ‘They do not deserve land just because they are poor,’ he says.

It’s hard to imagine anyone managing to circumscribe the economic power of Pakistan’s army. The military’s financial security reinforces its desire to retain control of the state. If full democracy were permitted in Pakistan, it would constitute a threat to the army’s throttling power. And since political power in turn creates greater economic opportunities, it’s in the interest of the military fraternity to perpetuate it. More political power leads to greater profit, and vice versa. The one factor that could still harm the army is its arrogant, dismissive attitude to its own people. Its flagrant profiteering engenders huge resentment in rural and smaller provinces, where the army is increasingly seen as an invading force rather than a protector. Ultimately, there is only so much abuse that an impoverished and subjugated populace can take before it rises up in protest.

London Protest: The Coup Against Musharraf

We have to narrate to everyone an extremely exciting and funny incident. We knew that Musharraf was coming to speak at the RUSI center in London. We prepared about 250 leaflets to give out to people and four CMKP members and a CAML member went to distribute these leaflets at the RUSI centre. When we got there we saw that there was a group of 35 young Pakistani studentswho were all standing on the street corner wearing impeccable suits. We asked them why they were so-well turned out and they told us that the Pakistan High Commission had invited them for a dinner with Musharraf through their respective Pakistan Societies at UCL and LSE.

At first we were quite dismayed since our people were running late and pro-Musharraf people had already arrived. We were five and they were 35.

But very soon we turned disadvantage into opportunity. At first we pretended to be part of their contingent and stood next to them. The funniest part was when Nadir Cheema began to shout "We want free dinner, Weare here for a free dinner". He did this in such a comic manner that it instantly attracted the press.

They asked us what we meant. We said that Musharraf has promised us a dinner and we are here to claim that dinner but we don't support Musharraf.

When Musharraf arrived the slogans of the five of us were so powerful (we really stretched our voices to the maximum) that the media people thought that the entire protest was anti-Musharraf.

Please take a look at the video report on BBC in which you can see CMKP cadres leading the chants.\&mp=rm&asb=1&news=1&bbcws=1

This was a fine coup against supporters Musharraf.

Next we went to the Hilton where Musharraf was speaking to the Pakistani community. He passed right next to us and we shouted "Muk giya tera show Musharraf, Tu hain zalim diyo Musharraf, Hum hain teray piyo Musharraf, Ja kaybhanday dho Musharraf, Zia tera piyo Musharraf, Jat gaya sara ghayyo Musharra, Kala bay kay ro Musharraf, Go Musharraf Go Musharraf".

Here are some press reports about our campaign forMonday and also our activity with other political parties here in London. We have really done our verybest to make sure that Musharraf gets the reception he really deserves in London.\eshow/2732796.cms\11652\raf-visit-20080125


Pakistan's Dilemma - A Perspective

Mustafa Waris

The gulf between the rich and poor is widening with every new day. We do have a yearly list of the richest people on earth but nobody pays any heed to the poorest people especially the new entries. We have become acclimatized to lots of things which we just take for granted. In reality, our system has become something of a labyrinthine, and the most disturbing fact is that our oligarchs are adamant not to disturb the status-quo.

In the 60 years of the history of our country, we have taste both capitalism and socialism with capitalism dominating for most of the years. I am not entering the fray discussing which one of these suits us or our local environment. But my main point of concern is that our masses at large were not able to benefit from either of the two systems. We heard for many years from both schools of thought focusing on the positive attributes of both systems. I personally think that both were successful to some extent and simultaneously failed as well.

Coming back to Pakistan and finding ways so that the gulf between the rich and the poor could be controlled, let’s identify our main problem. If we examine our history and the data on the richest people of our country, we would find two different classes. One are the traditional landed elites having the proud title of Chaudries, Sardars, Maliks, Khans, Mians, Nawabs and the offspring of the Sirs and Generals. The other category is of those once poor people who now have the wealth and the power of our traditional elites. Most of the people reached this category through cynical ploy but a mere fraction did excel through purely fair means.

The dilemma of our society is that our nouvelle wealthy did nothing whatsoever to bring change in the society, instead they themselves got engrossed in ways of bolstering their budgets and turned out to be more feudal than the established elites. It can’t be said for sure, but it was probably a kind of a vengeance against the oligarchs. If the idea was to display their hatred towards the aristocratic, it was certainly not the right style. The right thing was to help their once pauper-fellows both socially and financially.

The current extremely dangerous situation of Pakistan is self-made turned self-destructive. Our country is on fire and we all are to blame for the present scenario. Year 2007 had been annus horribilis for the ordinary citizens of Pakistan. Never in our history did we witness suicidal attacks. Be it suicides or the suicidal attacks, both are performed in exasperation. The paramount reason is apartheid and injustice for which we are all culpable and should be made accountable. The oligarchs are to blame for doing too little to bring a real social change and the oppressed ones are to blame for tolerating this injustice for such a long time and doing nothing practical to bring about change. If we want to create Pakistan of our founders, we need to do something collectively and that needs to be done As Soon As Possible.

God bless Pakistan

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Kaiser Bengali explains the Economic performance of Shaukat Aziz

Courtesy Teeth Meastro
Kaiser Bengali is currently working for Collective for Social Science Research, a research company based in Karachi, economist Bengali has also served as the managing director Social Policy Development Centre between 2001-2004. Here he talks with TNS about a range of issues and gives his own economic blueprint which is closely tied up with politics. Excerpts of the interview follow:
The News on Sunday (TNS): How do see the relationship between military regimes and economic progress?
Kaiser Bengali (KB): There is a myth about development and economic performance of military regimes. In Pakistan, Ayub Khan, Ziaul Haq and Musharraf have all received unprecedented support from IMF and World Bank. In the case of Musharraf, it was the rescheduling and, of course, money that was coming as rental from the United States for using our space.
There were four factors which contributed to the high growth during the Zia period, none of which can be located in Zia’s economic policy. The oil price shock hit the world in 1973 but it was 1975-77 when the first emigrants from Pakistan began to leave for Saudi Arabia and it was 1978 when the remittance inflow began and it peaked in 1982onwards. So the price of the oil price shock was borne by the Bhutto regime but the benefits were accrued by the Zia regime. This rate of remittance inflow gave the govt sufficient fiscal space.
Second, there were very large investments made during the Bhutto period that had long gestation periods. The Pakistan Steel Mills construction started in 1974, and it started commercial production in1982. Similarly there were Heavy Mechanical Complex, Indus Highway, Heavy Electrical Complex, Port Qasim and Ittehad Chemicals (chemical lindustry’s foundation was laid in 1970s and chemicals are a major input in a large number of consumer industries). So this investment in the 1970s began to fruit in the 1980s leading to large chunk of output increases.Third, because of Afghan war Pakistan received enormous amount of foreign funding, almost unlimited.
And fourth, Zia resorted very heavily on borrowing and deficit financing. When he took over the debt-GDP ratio of the country was 24%and in 1988 when Zia left the scene, it was 48%. So if you get manna form heaven your performance will be good. However, the poor performance of Zia regime became apparent in the 1990s and till later.
TNS: What happened in the 1990s?
KB: In the 1990s the civilian governments had no fiscal space because all the resources they had were mobilized for repaying the dept which Zia had left them. You will recall in 1984, Mahboob ul Haq, Zia’s finance minister floated whitener bonds with a ten year maturity period. They matured in 1994. If you look at the budget of 1994, debt service rate went very high - almost 40% in nominal terms. Zia government had collected money and spent it [on defense], so in 1994Benazir government had to repay that money.
So, if you say 1990 were not an era of good economic performance, it was there were no resources. I once asked somebody very senior in Nawaz Sharif government as to why the ninth five year plan was not being prepared. His reply was that whenever the economic team met, all they discussed was when was the next installment due and where would the money come from. He said there was no point in discussing any thing else.
TNS: In this backdrop how do you look at the economic performance of Musharraf in the last eight years?
KB: GDP growth rate is an average of growth in its component sectors. So in the years that GDP growth rate was around 8%, in 2003 for instance, banking sector growth rate was 29% and the automobile sector growth rate was 45%. Now if you have some sectors where growth rate is so high, your average will go up, even if the variance is very high.
The banking sector growth rate was high because the government, or the State Bank rather, allowed consumer financing from 2002 onwards. The monetary was you could get a loan for a house, car, fridge, camera, if for nothing else, a vacation or a personal loan. Banks made enormous profits out of consumer credit and profits are a component of GDP. A lot of this credit was going in for buying cars so automobile production went up by 40-45%.
So basically it was a one legged growth and that one leg is consumer financing. You remove consumer financing, everything else collapses. You are only managing an economy for your numbers to look good, for headlines.
TNS: What is the other leg of the economy?
KB: Largely there are two legs of an economy, agriculture and manufacturing. The services sector is the body. If you look at the national accounts, more than 50% of growth of GDP is coming from services sector. Agriculture is stagnant, and so is manufacturing barring one or two sectors, like automobiles. Today we have an economy with weak legs and a bloated body. It is not sustainable.
TNS: What is wrong with consumer financing?
KB: What it did was that it increased money supply in the economy. In the first two years, inflation remained low because there was excess manufacturing capacity in the country. So factories which were operating at two shifts began to operate at three shifts and the supply increased. But once that capacity was reached demand continued to increase because people kept going to restaurants and kept paying out of credit cards. Once supply was constant and demand continued to increase inflation was the result. Sp today we have runaway inflation, nearly double digit and food inflation which is certainly more than12%.
Another things that has happened is that a lot of demand has been created for imported products. W are importing billion dollars worth of mobile phones. We are importing cars, because we only assemble cars here. And with cars come petroleum imports as well.
So we have created two problems: inflation that is out of control and a trade imbalance. Our imports have risen sharply while the exports are stagnant. And this is what the coming government is going to inherit. Just as Zia gave a debt mountain to the incoming government, the Musharraf regime is going to give the next government a massive foreign exchange crisis.
TNS: What about the outgoing government’s privatization policy?
KB: Our services deficit which has always been very small is rising sharply because of our privatization and foreign investment policy. All the large entities have been privatized to foreign companies. And the investment (FDI) has been in terms of telecommunications, mobile phones and food. All of these companies earn their profits in rupees but remit their profit in dollars. So there is dollar outflow in terms of profit remittance against which there is no dollar inflow. We have created a liability without creating a countervailing asset.
In 1999 total profit remittance outflow, which in monetary language is called reverse remittance, was 97 million dollars a year. Today it is close to a billion dollars and rising.
TNS: About PTCL, is there a justification for a profit-making enterprise?
KB: There was no real policy or principle involved. This is a neo-liberal government which believes it is not the business of the government to be in business. What they have done is that that have sold PTCL to a company which is a state enterprise. So de facto their policy was that is not the business of the Pakistani state to be in business in Pakistan but it can be the business of a foreign state to be in business in Pakistan.
TNS: There is a massive power and energy crisis n the country. Where did we go wrong?
KB: The last investment that was made in the power sector was in the Ghazi Barotha project, which was an achievement of the political governments of the 1990s. In 1988, the Benazir govt. saw a power crisis coming and they went ahead with establishing thermal power plants which takes about three years to build. If those power plants had not been setup, we would have seen the same situation in 1990sthat we have today. There would have been power outages for eight to ten hours.
Since 1999, the Musharraf regime has not invested n a single megawatt of power. In 2001, we had surplus power, today we are living with power shortage. When Benazir’s govt. contracted to buy power at 6cents per hour, there was excessive criticism. Today, for one project they are contracting at 11.5 cents per hour. Today, the world knows that we have a power crisis, it will increase its power knowing that Pakistan has no choice but to buy.
So it is mismanagement of the highest order of the economy. All the investment that they talk about is either portfolio investment, which is the stock market, equity markets or soft investments like telecommunications. These are all investments which do not require these companies to build any brick and mortar and steel structures. So if they have to leave at 24 hours notice, they don’t lose much. What do banks lose, furniture?
TNS: But they have paid huge licensing fees.
KB: That is peanuts compared to the kind of profits they have made. They have recovered several times their licensing fees.
TNS: So are big dams like Kalabagh the only solution to the energy crisis?
KB: Dams don’t produce water, they only store water and you don’t have water. Even now you cannot store water in Tarbela and Mangla to their full capacity.
TNS: You are a strong advocate of low GDP growth rates. Comment.
KB: For about ten years we need to run an economy where the finance minister and the prime minister have the courage not to get good headlines. We need to invest in infrastructure which has deteriorated to a point that we don’t have productive capacity.
When you are investing in infrastructure, and by that I also mean cities which are totally chaotic where no foreigners wants to come, and physical and human infrastructure, the results are going to come after a while. So you are not going to get any output and the GDP is going to be low. Ten years later when you have infrastructure in place then you can target double digit growth rates. That growth will be based on real sectors - on agriculture and manufacturing outputs, not an hot air balloon sectors like mobile phones. By doing so, you will have a massive boost in employment, income generation and poverty reduction.
As for inflation it will be controlled by switching expenditures from current heads to development heads - by abolishing concurrent list ministries and reducing defense expenditure.
TNS: In an idea economic model, what sort of a role do you see for the private and public sector.
KB: Private sector is good in producing those commodities, which are low technology and require small capital investments. We have seen that our private sector is unable to put together large outlays. We have no one in this country of the caliber of Tata or Ambani in India. These are areas where the state will invest.
TNS: But then the state tends to over staff?
KB: There is no problem with that. This is where your economic and social values come in. Is the purpose of the state merely to fill the pockets of profit makers? Or is the state supposed to work for the welfare of the maximum number of people?
It’s a value judgement. When Shaukat Aziz went out for all out privatization, he made a value judgement. The welfare of the people of Pakistan didn’t matter, what mattered was the corporate profits and he made that decision accordingly. As a state we need to determine what are our values. Are we prepared to have a few people who can enjoy summer holidays in Switzerland and the rest of the people virtually starving? If that is acceptable, then fine. We should follow that policy.
TNS: And now to the most immediate issues. How do you look at the current food crisis?
KB: There was a mala fide intention to begin with. The Shaukat Aziz ministry (Finance) predetermined the growth rate they want to achieve. So when you increase the wheat output you increase the agricultural sector growth rate. When you do that GDP growth rate will go up.
There was something else that was suspect here. The estimate for the wheat crop is made after the rains, but this time they made an announcement of a bumper crop before the winter rains and, based on that announcement, allowed certain part to export wheat to India, apparently half a million tones. After that transaction was complete, the rains came and news began to come in that we are going to have a normal crop. A normal crop means that you import two million tones of wheat which is a routine
Because they had earlier announced a bumper crop, they took time to admit that they were wrong. So the LC for import of wheat was also delayed. One wheat had been exported and we had a normal crop, the wheat market knew there was to be a shortage. Now stockists every wherein the world will behave like that that when they know there is a shortage and prices can go up, they withhold their stocks. They are not evil people. This is normal behavior and this is what a market economy will do if there is a shortage.
They made another mistake. Instead of placing an order for 2 million tonnes of wheat, they placed an order of 1.5 million tonnes of wheat first. Then they realised this mistake and placed another order for half a million tonnes of wheat. After their first order, the signal had already gone out in the market that shortage will remain. So they continued to withhold stocks. If they knew that wheat was arriving and prices will fall, they would have released stocks and that would have taken care of the shortage.
TNS: Prices of other commodities have doubled alongside?
KB: There are two components of economic management: fiscal policy and monetary policy. The State Bank is following a restrictive monetary policy while the finance ministry is following a liberal fiscal policy, one is contradicting the other and neither of them effective. The government is borrowing heavily from the State Bank for its expenditure. That means the money supply increases. On one hand, the State Bank is trying to restrict money supply by increasing interest rates, and on the other the government is raising the money supply. When money supply increases prices will rise.
There is another reason for increasing food prices. Our agricultural yield per acre is constant on declining for most crops because we are not investing in our land, in supporting agriculture. The government’s adhocism is causing problems. When the government suddenly imported tomatoes and prices crash. As a result the farmer will not grow tomato next year, shifting the crisis to the next year.
For eight years Shaukat Aziz has mismanaged the economy like no other finance minister. Because Shaukat Aziz knew he does not has to go back and ask people for votes, he couldn’t care less about what he did to the economy. All he had to show for was the stock market performance which is only hot air.