New Age Islam Edit Bureau
21 September 2015
Government, education and madrasas
By Gul Bukhari
Thin edge of the wedge
By Dr Fawad Kaiser
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
The woes of children in Balochistan
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
Reflections on Fata reforms
By Ejaz A. Qureshi
Is Imran Khan really Pakistan’s Donald Trump?
By Michael Kugelman
A political paradigm shift
By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
Government, education and madrasas
By Gul Bukhari
September 21, 2015
As Babar Sattar pointed out on Saturday in his excellent column, education has finally caught the media’s and the nation’s imagination, but the ongoing debate is a hideously twisted one. He made several important points: that whilst 25 million children are not even enrolled in school, the ongoing discussion is focusing on the rich and privileged demanding private education at a lower price than being offered by private schools; that one third of our grade five students possess reading skills of a grade two level; that the elite of the country instead of asking government to fix the public sector is demanding price regulation of private education for their children etc. And whilst he rightly points out that regulating a free market economy does not mean price fixing but managing the demand-supply dynamics, I do not agree entirely that this is an ‘intra-class fight within a morally bankrupt privileged class that is now hurting due to the rising cost of private education’. Inflation is at an all time low in Pakistan. If you research the salaries paid to teachers in private schools, they are abysmally low, what to speak of other staff; facilities for sports etc. are non-existent in the vast majority of private schools. Yet, fee increases are astronomical. I am not advocating fixing of prices. But the government, i.e., its education department, does need to audit school financials to check whether they are offering teacher and teaching quality, sports facilities, libraries and other co-curricular activities commensurate with the fees they are charging students.
However, this does not detract from the fundamental point that the state has failed in providing education to all, leave alone provision of quality education. It is certainly not enough to pay lip service to education for all by simply inserting a clause in the constitution and then washing one’s hands of the responsibility. Clearly, if the private sector got tough competition from the state, prices would rationalise.
This is not all though. The issue of education is even more twisted than what is currently being talked about. There is no mention of the role madrassas are playing. Last week I was on a television talk show where madrassas came under discussion in context of the National Action Plan to fight terrorism in the country. Completely aside from the issue under discussion, a co-guest, a retired stated that whilst it could be argued the children of madaaris may not be given the right education, it had to be acknowledged that the madaaris were providing food, housing, clothing and ‘education’ worth 30 crore a day to the students that the state could ill afford. It is one of the most regressive statements one has heard on the state of, and solutions to, the education emergency in the country. To a question as to whether there was capacity to employ masjid imams in the numbers (millions) of children graduating from madrassas, the general countered whether there was capacity to employ the numbers of MBAs being churned out each ear.
Clearly, the MBAs who do not end up leading business firms, will end up doing mid level management, finance, government, teaching, journalism etc. How he could compare the plethora of business schools with the hundreds of madaaris churning out virulently sectarian hate mongering men and women is beyond the pale. And men like the general are the elite, the powerful class in whose hands our fate has lain for decades. Men like him clearly do not appreciate the fact that not only are madrassa children not being ‘educated’, but that MBAs are not taught in business schools to hate everyone who does not believe what they do, that the ‘other’ is not ‘wajibul qatal’, that they do not randomly explode themselves in schools, masajids, markets or airforce bases, nor are they brainwashed to do so. Further pearls of wisdom on the subject were shed by an ex-IG Punjab Police: that in a country of low taxation, madrassas indeed had a role to play; that they were providing a ‘social service’; that not all madrassas were involved in terror activities; that registration would be a first step and monitoring, deciding their curricula, checking backgrounds of their teachers would be the next steps in their reformation.
In making this statement the gentleman cleanly sidestepped the question of what the fundamental point of having madrassas was. That if science, art, humanities were to be taught at madrassas, and backgrounds of their teachers brought in line with mainstream schools, what was the need for them? And will the funders of the madaaris countenance these changes? Were the funds meant to impart modern education, they would already have been doing so. Further, what ‘social service’ do people like him refer to? The sectarian hate and terrorism ripping the country apart? Are people like him arguing that it is alright for the state to abdicate from its responsibility to educate citizens even if they are ‘educated’ by madrassas to then go on to provide the social service of ignorance, hate, divisiveness, and terrorism? Is the solution to the education problem the demand for better taxation, or insistence on a ‘role’ for madrassas? The argument that not ‘all’ madrassas are involved in terrorism, and therefor there is no harm in madrassas proliferating, is an ingenuous one. Does it not occur to these apologists that even the madrassas not indulging in active terrorism have no place in a civilised society?
Why do these gentlemen, and those that they represent, not demand the basic right of a decent education for a bright future of the country from the state, as opposed to making excuses for a grotesque anomaly to exist within the education landscape of the country? Until these mindsets become more cognisant of the need of the times, our future will remain a question mark at best, no matter Zarb-e-Azbs or National Action Plans.
An excellent point raised by the host of the show was that every madrassa belongs to, and teaches, sectarianism, and how that could be thought of as an innocuous activity. To expand on this a little, the arguments messrs general and IG made do not acknowledge an iota that there’s no free lunch in this world. When they make the ‘social service’, ‘taxation’ and ‘not all of them’ arguments, why do they omit to admit that each and every madrassa’s basic job is to advance its sect and teach the most bilious hate against all other Muslims and non Muslims, which is the foundation of recruitment to Islamist terrorism; why cannot they admit and see that the funding of these madrassas has a specific purpose, and that that purpose is not ‘social service’.
In the overall education debate, therefore, let’s not forget the role of madrassas, the apologists for them, and the state’s abdication from the responsibility of educating its citizens. Let’s begin by acknowledging that the funds for madrassas have specific purposes that are harmful and divisive for the country. Indeed, one of the foremost longer-term goals of the National Action Plan ought to the provision of education to all and the elimination of this freakish disgrace in our educational system, and hence our society.
The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.
The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter
Thin edge of the wedge
By Dr Fawad Kaiser
September 21, 2015
The leaders of different factions of the Muslim League are discussing modalities to launch the Muttahida Muslim League (MML) bringing in all factions of the Muslim League, except the PML-N. The agenda is to launch a struggle against the rulers. All set to go, the MML will prop up the candidacy of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) chief, Pervez Musharraf, as most likely to lead the alliance. The launch was interesting because of some politicians who graced the occasion. Among them were Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Hamid Nasir Chattha, Ghous Ali Shah, Dost Mohammad Khosa and Sardar Attique Ahmed. Also providing star power to the occasion was the former governor Punjab, Sardar Zulfiqar Ali Khosa, and Rashid Qureshi. Pervez Musharraf being brought up to the stage makes the MML look better.
The promise of an exciting new political venture loses much of its bite when only political parties with poor popularity are seen as being involved. As things stand, the latest group of MML politicians will have their work cut out for them to show where this promised excitement will come from and what differences they can make in changing corrupt practices and the political system. One of the first questions that will be asked tomorrow is whether they intend to go the whole hog and establish a political party or muddle through with an informal alliance. What is certain is that they hope to be involved in the formation of the next government and to influence its policies. In politics, as elsewhere, strength lies in numbers. Because of that, a pledge of support from all the political leaders would be more attractive in terms of loyalty than friendship. On the plus side, individually they are strong-minded, socially committed politicians, likely to retain their seats. On group issues, however, they differ in dynamics.
That begs the question on whether it would make Musharraf look good especially to the voters. That question can also be asked of the other MML politicians who graced the occasion. Serious issues are hounding Musharraf, the most notable being the court cases against him. The critics surely did not frown upon seeing many old politicians being associated with his party but the PML-N may think that their rivals are aligned with an agenda that may cause an issue. History, however, tends to show a different picture.
Issues that make or break an alliance are always political. Whom the alliance politicians are supporting at the national level does not factor much in the reckoning by voters. On the other hand, funding and other forms of support from a major political party with nationwide reach matter much in the conduct of the campaign by party candidates. It is this kind of dynamics that makes the risk of being associated with a disputed politician not worth taking.
“This is the way the world ends,” wrote T S Eliot in the final stanza of his oft-quoted poem The Hollow Men: “Not with a bang but a whimper.” And thus, it appears, will be the way the new MML alliance finally reaches its sell-by date. Not with the dramatic split that has always seemed inevitable given the broad spread of philosophies and ideologies that are accommodated in the alliance and as preparations are being made to resurrect the country from the jaws of corruption, but with a whimper of conflicting class interests, denouncements, angry statements and endless litigation.
Alliance politics and the way the Muslim League’s political parties have become aligned will never be the same again whatever happens next. The bottom line is that the MML’s bid to co-opt Musharraf’s leadership in the manner that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party’s executive has been persuaded to refrain from leading its policies and practices in the interests of the country are very timely. The National Action Plan’s (NAP’s) pressures are just too great for the MQM and if the Rangers had not drawn a line in the sand, the alliance was doomed to suffer the same fate as the Charter of Democracy (CoD).
The PPP has been decimated by the politically correct Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) after its leaders failed to heed warnings that their credibility among ordinary members had been undermined by their perceived indulgence in corruption and recent National Accountability Bureau (NAB) cases. The same actually also applies to the MML and, to a greater or lesser degree, most of Musharraf’s other affiliates. In general, the PML-Q has historically gained from the maintenance of a cosy relationship with the governing party, although how much longer they would have continued in the current economic environment is debatable. However, the PML-N would have seen little benefit from giving the PML-Q a blank cheque that is now digging in their heels.
It is unclear whether this development will have much effect on the outcome of the 2018 local elections although the 2023 national election could be another story. However, the MML’s alliance power will inevitably rock on to the shop floor in the same way that the PTI’s rise affected the PPP’s popularity, and this should be of concern to Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders alike. We are told that Pakistan is riding high and that 2018 could be the year that this unlikely alliance of the MML synchronised with the PTI may be brought to the political surface, winning a clutch of majority seats in parliament. But the more the public knows about them, the less it is likely to want to vote for them. Therefore, preparing the voters for change at the right time is vital. Some of this is due to the incompetence and incompatibility of the two and some of it will be a by-product of personalities and ideology.
Ironically, many Muslim League warriors are not really Muslim League leaders. They are just politicians. It is not just that the party has become a bolthole for every opportunist politician who thinks alliance is necessary but their central philosophy is itself far more selfish than it is futurist. Political circumstances may be kind to them. But, at the same time, the role of NAB in exposing dubious financial transactions has resonated strongly with the accountability threat, and this suggests a new culture. Whether the MML can capitalise on this situation by forming like-minded negotiating groups is uncertain. Post-election arithmetic will provide the answer.
The writer is a professor of Psychiatry and consultant Forensic Psychiatrist in the UK. He can be contacted at email@example.com
By Yasser Latif Hamdani
September 21, 2015
Three years since the YouTube ban and the futility of it all stares us in the face. Not only is the website easily accessible — mercifully — but the country nevertheless carries the burden of being the only nation on earth that has supposedly blocked a treasure trove of knowledge and entertainment. Almost two and a half years ago, representing a civil society client, I challenged the ban in the Lahore High Court (LHC) on purely constitutional grounds i.e. namely the right of freedom of expression and speech contained in Article 19 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, 1973. After one and a half years and 20 plus hearings, the High Court, acknowledging the many advantages of having YouTube, nevertheless directed the petitioners to first seek a clarification from the Supreme Court (SC) of an order it had passed on September 17, 2012 whereby the Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, had directed the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to block “U-Tube” on an IP level. Consequently, the matter now rests in the SC.
YouTube was not the first website to be blocked in Pakistan of course. The policymakers in this impoverished country believe that regulating what a person surfs on the internet is the business of the state. Consequently, pornography has supposedly been eliminated. How effective the bans on pornography are one need not say. However, one marvels at the mindset that feels that in this day and age, a state can control and regulate individual behaviour like a nanny. It is precisely this mindset that prioritises morality over the actual issues that the people of Pakistan are confronted with on a daily basis. The whole theory of a democratic state is inverted as a consequence of this paternalistic attitude on the part of the state. What does the state have to do with the determination of the moral conduct of an individual? It is the individual who collectively, with other individuals, is supposed to regulate the conduct of the state in a democracy and clearly the people of Pakistan have been unable to exercise their right as a collective to do that. As a result, you have — I am sorry to say — petty individuals who by sheer luck have been placed in a position of limited power or who have, by threats of violence, been forcing down their own outmoded and outdated notions of morality on the rest of Pakistan.
The state’s response to violence and blackmail by certain sections within its own bureaucracy as well as certain opprobrious voices from the extreme right wing is often one of inaction or regressive action. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s Second Constitutional Amendment comes to mind. The YouTube ban by the last PPP government was a repeat performance on a smaller scale. The rulers then had tried to out-mullah the mullahs by declaring a national holiday, a national holiday that soon descended into violence and chaos. As a consequence, the present government is too scared to even touch the issue. Our so-called leaders in this country refuse to lead. The mobs rule the roost and we have lowly state functionaries determining the future of one of the largest nations on earth. The courts are pusillanimous and refuse to enforce the fundamental rights granted to individual citizens by the constitution they have sworn to uphold and to protect. One such fundamental right is the right to privacy and inviolability of the home. That concept extends to computer screens viewed within one’s home or personal space. Yet not only is the internet subject to censorship — albeit failed censorship — but all our computers and devices are subject to mass surveillance and data mining. This last bit is done in the name of national security of course, as if mining data from ordinary citizens is somehow going to secure the country against the terrorist threats. In this, the west is not blameless. The paragon of individual freedom, fundamental rights and democracy, the US has set an odious precedent for other regimes to follow. The champion of democracy in our neighbourhood, India, is no exception. The recently de-classified Subhas Chandra Bose files show that the Indian state has a long history of surveillance dating back to independence. With precedents like this what is there to stop our state, which has never laid any claims to either individual freedom or democracy?
Yet that is precisely what needs to change going forward. It does not matter what India does or what the US does. Pakistan’s Constitution envisages the people as the fountainhead of political legitimacy and privileges individual fundamental rights over all other constitutional rights. In theory at least we are supposed to be the masters of our own destiny. The preamble to the Constitution states “Now, therefore, we, the people of Pakistan...” It is “we, the people of Pakistan” that are recognised by the constitutional scheme as the ultimate arbiters of power and state legitimacy. It is “we, the people of Pakistan” who must decide whether we are going to allow the usurpation of our privacy, expression, speech and other fundamental rights in our name by state functionaries who ride roughshod over these rights. The answer must be an overwhelming no. Individual rights must not be sacrificed in the name of morality, national security or any misguided notion of religiosity. “We, the people of Pakistan” must reject all efforts to foist a nanny state upon us.
The writer is a lawyer based in Lahore and the author of the book Mr Jinnah: Myth and Reality. He can be contacted via twitter @therealylh and through his email address firstname.lastname@example.org
The woes of children in Balochistan
By Muhammad Akbar Notezai
September 21, 2015
In recent months, it was reported by the Office of the National Commissioner for Children in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Funds (UNICEF) that before the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 2010, the federal government had a number of initiatives related to protecting children’s rights and affairs, which were then under way. Unfortunately, these initiatives were not adopted by the provinces after the devolution of the amendment. As a result, the woes of children in the provinces, particularly in the largest province of the country, Balochistan, are increasing. “Astonishingly, in Balochistan’s only Chaghai district, the death ratio of children is 34 percent,” reported Ali Raza Rind, who is a journalist based in Chaghai. Very pathetically, it is the situation of children in a single district of Balochistan, let alone other districts, where there is no independent and investigative journalism.
Undoubtedly, innocent children in Balochistan are plagued by numerous woes that range from education and health to labour, sexual assault and kidnapping etc. There are many children, who can be seen working regularly on the streets of Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan, as garbage collectors, carpenters, or working in automobile shops. One of the children, who collects garbage, a child as young as 11, said he was sexually abused when went to homes for the collection of garbage. Unfortunately, it seems that children in Balochistan do not have rights, as they, in all of Balochistan’s sectors, have been living in a pitiable condition. Let us discuss three key factors that have put the children of Balochistan in distress.
Firstly, let us look at education. It was reported by Alif Ailaan, a non-profit organisation working on education in the province, that 66 percent of Balochistan’s children do not go to school. Ironically, there are some districts in Balochistan where they do not have schools. Therefore, children are being deprived of their fundamental right of education. They, instead of going to school, go to work in different places, particularly in Quetta, the provincial capital of Balochistan. Advisor to the Chief Minister (CM) Balochistan on Education Sardar Raza Mohammad Barech himself also confessed at the Quetta Press Club that there are 7,000 schools across the province with just a single room and a single teacher.
In the rural areas of Balochistan, the children of poor parents reportedly attain positions in matriculation exams. But they, due to poverty, cannot complete their education. As for Quetta, there were some children there whom this scribe met and interviewed who said they could not afford to go to school, as they hardly earn a livelihood for themselves and their family members despite having an extraordinary interest in education. On the other hand, the provincial government of Balochistan, which is led by Dr Abdul Malik Baloch, has been erroneously claiming that they are doing their level best to provide education to every child in the province, which is pragmatically not so. Merely, in the name of education, funds have reportedly been embezzled. That is why children are deprived of their fundamental rights.
Secondly, when it comes to the health sector, the province is showing a bleak picture on all levels. According to the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), only 16 percent of children are fully immunised in the province, while the other 84 percent are at risk of contracting any minor or fatal disease. In the rural areas of Balochistan, it becomes uglier, where they are increasingly sufferers of malnutrition and other fatal diseases, which snatch their lives. “When the children suffer from minor diseases, it also becomes the cause of their death, as they cannot bring them to cities for treatment,” says a Quetta based doctor, further adding, “Due to the target killing of polio workers in the province, polio cases still get reported.” That is why Balochistan is lagging behind other provinces in terms of social indicators. Moreover, government officials say that though doctors are posted in various parts of the province, they do not go to perform their duties. Instead, they are running their private clinics in Quetta. Therefore, in the rural parts of Balochistan, government hospitals bear a deserted look.
Thirdly, we know that Balochistan’s people still live in a tribal society where children are forced to marry early. The practice of child marriages has been affecting them (children) tremendously, and this not only affects their education but also their mental state. Due to lack of awareness and poverty, parents get their children, whether girls or boys, married before the age of 18. Moreover, they also cannot afford to send their children to school. As a result they get them married off early. Though anti-child marriage laws have been adopted in Sindh and Punjab, these are laws are still in pending in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is why children are getting married early in these two provinces. “When I was in school in the eighth class, I got married to a girl unwillingly despite telling my parents that I wanted to compete my education, but they did not listen to me. Therefore, I had to marry early. Nor is my better-half educated now,” said Mohammad Aslam.
Due to the devolution of the 18th Amendment, all powers have been transferred to the provinces. Despite this, the provincial government of Balochistan has not done any remarkable work in order to protect children’s rights in the province, as well as to provide free and compulsory education to them. Therefore, due to the negligence of the government, children’s woes are being compounded everyday instead of dwindling. This time, like in the past, the provincial government of Balochistan ought not to be a complainant about the federal government, as it is being given their share, which the CM of Balochistan has himself acknowledged on many occasions. So, in this context, the government of Balochistan had better come forth to resolve the woes of Balochistan’s children.
The author is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Quetta. He blogs at http://www.akbarnotezai.wordpress.com and tweets @Akbar_notezai
Reflections on Fata reforms
By Ejaz A. Qureshi
September 21st, 2015
THE Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) have been in turmoil for quite some time but the military operations have added to people’s woes. Almost two million people — one-third of its total population — have been displaced. The Fata Reforms Commission (FRC) was tasked with coming up with recommendations to restore the people’s trust in the state. Its deliberations resulted in a report, presented to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor a few months ago, containing suggestions for reforms that could pave the way for improved governance structures in Fata.
The proposed reforms cover areas on which there is broad consensus among the people, especially parliamentarians, tribal elders and ulema. For contentious issues, a mechanism is proposed whereby tribal people themselves would work towards a resolution within a limited time span. The purpose behind this approach was to work on common desirable objectives immediately, while allowing time and wider consultation for thorny issues. Any hasty, kneejerk action would be extremely counterproductive. We have many examples of the latter in our recent history; eg One Unit, merger of states comprising the Provincially Administered Tribal Areas without a well-thought-out plan, etc.
The proposals in the report cover several areas — prioritised and identified by the stakeholders — including peace and security, temporarily dislocated persons, the justice system and legal framework in Fata, local governance, quick impact projects for socio-economic revival and institutional frameworks.
Post 9/11, the situation in Fata deteriorated so much that there was no option but to carry out military operations to curb militancy in the region. Without restoring peace, however, no reforms can be long-lasting and fruitful. The Commission has proposed that 500 levies personnel be trained in each of the seven agencies that comprise Fata, and 200 in each Frontier Region (FR), as well as new Frontier Corps (FC) wings for border security and to support the political administration in maintaining law and order. It has recommended that a coordination cell should be set up in the Fata Secretariat to institutionalise the levies’ capacity building in Fata on a regular basis under the auspices of retired military or police officers.
The reforms aim to institute representative governance with mechanisms for accountability and transparency.
Similarly, for better coordination in the maintenance of law and order in each agency, the Commission has proposed the establishment of an agency security and intelligence committee under the political agent concerned, which would comprise the FC commandant, the heads of the ISI, MI and IB along with a representative of the army. At the macro level, to ensure that it is a fully empowered body, it is suggested that the existing apex committee, headed by the KP governor, be further expanded to include the inspector general FC, the heads of the KP ISI, MI and IB and the ACS Fata with the chief secretary of KP as its secretary.
With respect to temporarily displaced persons, an issue that did not directly fall within the Commission’s terms of reference but was taken up because it is a matter of immense human hardship, the reform body recommended the provision of immediate funding by the federal government until their safe return and rehabilitation. For the long term, a revolving fund of Rs10 billion is proposed to be maintained in the Fata Disaster Management Authority whose institutional restructuring should be undertaken along the lines of the KP Provincial Disaster Management Authority.
As for the justice system and legal framework in Fata, there was no convergence of opinion among the stakeholders about how to address the shortcomings. Their views varied from extending the authority of the superior courts to Fata to more traditional ideas about streamlining the local jirga system. Opinion about the Frontier Crimes Regulation was also divided, ranging from abolishing it completely to retaining it with major reforms. Ultimately, the Commission recommended that the handling of the FCR and access to the superior judiciary in Fata be linked with the area’s future status, an issue that has far-reaching implications, and therefore any decision regarding this should be taken by the people of Fata themselves. To enable this, the Commission recommended the establishment of a representative council for constitutional reforms in Fata.
Additionally, the Commission proposed the expansion of the Fata Tribunal and the abolition of the existing appellate process of appeal to the commissioner. The Tribunal should be headed by a retired high court judge and assisted by another member from the legal fraternity, a retired civil servant having served in Fata and a person of knowledge and integrity from the civil society. Moreover, an additional political agent (judiciary) post is recommended in each agency to cater to all judicial matters. This set-up is recommended for the interim period, after which an independent judicial hierarchy may be put in place headed by judicial officers independent of the political agent.
Further, in the existing system, there is no institutional framework at the agency level that involves local people in identifying their development needs and to ensure transparency in implementing the development initiatives as per these requirements. To embark on establishing a local governance system in Fata, the Commission proposed an agency council/FR council to provide a platform for local participation that would consequently squeeze the space for non-state actors. Moreover, it would revive the state-citizen relationship and strengthen the writ of the state by engaging local people and restoring their confidence in state institutions.
The Commission also urges that a representative form of governance be provided in Fata by expanding the local governance structure to the level of governor in the form of a governor’s advisory council that would include women and a minority member from Fata. Such an institutional set-up would help overcome the disconnect between the KP governor, the Fata Secretariat and the people of Fata. The proposed structure of the governor’s council would be for an interim two-year period. Once the local governance system is expanded in Fata, and a census held, 90pc of the council members would be elected while the remaining would be nominated by the KP governor.
The Commission has thus recommended an appropriate institutional framework to address the administrative and governance related weaknesses in Fata. The underlying objective is to enhance organisational efficiency through leaner structures and develop a cost-effective institutional set-up in order to gain greater value for public money in public service delivery at the grass-roots level in Fata.
The writer was chairman Fata Reforms Commission, and is former chief secretary KP and Sindh.
Is Imran Khan really Pakistan’s Donald Trump?
By Michael kugelman
September 21st, 2015
In a recent Dawn op-ed, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy argued that Imran Khan is the Donald Trump of Pakistan. I beg to differ.
Yes, there are many striking similarities between the two men. Both are celebrities-turned-politicians with sky-high egos.
Both espouse very conservative views and exploit the deep anti-government grievances of right-wing constituencies. And both are as far as one can possibly get from camera-shy wallflowers.
And yet, these convergences are merely superficial. In the end, the analogy simply doesn’t hold for me.
First, Khan occupies a significant position in Pakistan’s political hierarchy. He’s elevated the PTI to great prominence in quite rapid fashion, and he boasts a track record of electoral success.
In short, Khan is a bonafide political star. Trump, to put it mildly, is not.
Trump is a wildly successful businessman, but he’s barely gotten his feet wet in politics. And don’t be fooled by his high-flying act as a leading Republican Party presidential candidate.
In US presidential campaigns, fringe candidates often ride on the coattails of populist anger to rush to the front of the pack early on, only to quietly fade away later on.
Naïve not nefarious
Second, Khan may harbour some misguided and troubling views (I’ve written previously in this space about his disturbingly complacent attitudes toward anti-state militancy). Still, they pale in comparison to Trump’s. Trump says such outrageous things that he makes Khan sound like Abdul Sattar Edhi.
Let’s face it: Naya Pakistan may be naïve, but it is neither nasty nor nefarious.
Also read: Imran Khan says will come out on streets against ECP
It’s certainly fanciful to promise an end to corruption in 90 days, but it’s downright cruel and bordering on racism to call for a “Great Wall of Trump” to keep Mexican immigrants out of America.
Also, when was the last time we heard about a cancer hospital developed and funded by Trump — or, for that matter, about any type of Trump charitable project?
Trump claims to contribute to many different charities, and I’m quite sure he does. Yet, he’s no prodigious philanthropist. In fact, an investigation by The Smoking Gun website has concluded that Trump may be the “least charitable billionaire in the United States.”
Third and finally, let’s consider the supporters of Khan and Trump.
Not to state the obvious, but there are many admirable and well-informed Insafians out there. Generally speaking, they are a well-intentioned (even if sometimes naïve) lot.
Yes, some will troll you viciously on Twitter. Some can be quite intense in person, too, and especially when railing about drones or other US-patented evils.
But even the most unpleasant Insafians can’t hold a candle to Trump’s partisans.
What’s so scary about Trump’s supporters is not necessarily what they say or do — but rather what they don’t say and don’t do.
It’s worth watching the video of Trump’s town hall meeting in New Hampshire a few days back. At one point, a supporter in the crowd asks, “when can we get rid of” Muslims. Trump’s response: “We’re going to be looking at that.”
This brief exchange was sickening enough. But so was the way in which the audience reacted — or more accurately, did not react.
From the time the question was posed to the time that Trump uttered his terse response, the people seated behind Trump barely batted an eyelid. They simply sat there; several appeared to be smiling.
Also read: Trump in trouble for not stopping anti-Muslim remarks
It was as if the terrible things said in such a shocking back-and-forth were somehow commonplace, and didn’t merit one iota of concern.
Contrast this with Khan’s jalsas, when scores of supporters cheer him on as he thunders about drones or vote-rigging, or even when he grandstands atop a container while saying nasty things about Nawaz Sharif.
These supporters may be endorsing some questionable viewpoints and highly distasteful remarks, but at least they’re not acquiescing in the most base and ugly form of prejudice (this is not to say, alas, that all Khan supporters are unabashed champions of Pakistan’s imperiled religious minorities).
It’s one thing to deal with a man often referred to as Im the Dim. It’s a very different thing altogether to deal with a man who merits the moniker of Donald the Dangerous.
Are there troubling dimensions to the politics of Imran Khan? Absolutely. But are they as troubling as the politics of Donald Trump?
So, who should be known as Pakistan’s Donald Trump? I’ll let others answer that question. At any rate, it’s not Imran Khan.
Michael Kugelman is the senior program associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.
He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @MichaelKugelman.
A political paradigm shift
By Malik Muhammad Ashraf
September 21, 2015
It is needless to emphasise that the Rangers operation in Karachi – notwithstanding the tactics employed by the MQM and PPP to thwart it – has been instrumental in restoring peace and order to a great extent.
According to a recent survey, 80 percent of the people of Karachi and an overwhelming majority of people all over the country are in favour of the operation’s continuation without any let up or discrimination. The failure of the recent MQM call for a shutter-down strike to show solidarity and protest against the killing of three of its workers in an encounter with the Rangers near Sorab Goth amply testifies to the fact that the people of Karachi are gradually coming out of the fear syndrome created by the militant wings and target killers belonging to these parties. This response also indicates the growing confidence of the citizens of Karachi in the ability and outreach of the Rangers to protect them against criminals.
There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that the MQM and the PPP are mainly responsible for whatever has being happening in Karachi in the past – for the sporadic incidents of target killing and terrorism that are still taking place. When the targeted operation was launched in September 2013 it was very much expected that both these parties would ultimately try to sabotage the operation for obvious reasons.
The MQM was the first to protest against the operation by the Rangers, alleging that it was actually a witch-hunt against the party. Altaf Hussain spoke harshly against the Rangers and the security establishment, and the Rabita Committee also used strike calls, protests at the local level as well as in the assemblies to put pressure on the government. As a last resort it also resigned from legislatures to put pressure on the government, an issue which is still to be decided.
The PPP is also now furious about the arrests made by the Rangers in connection with terror-related corruption; the arrests include that of Dr Asim Hussain. The conviction of Sindh MPA Syed Ali Nawaz Shah by an accountability court has also been harshly criticised by Asif Ali Zardari, who has termed it political victimisation. The Sindh government is also unhappy about the raids conducted by NAB and FIA to apprehend corrupt elements. This the Sindh government considers interference in provincial affairs and an encroachment on the authority of the provincial government.
Though the PPP has decided not to resign from the assemblies, it has adopted a confrontational policy against the PML-N government whom it accuses of relapsing into the politics of the 1990s, characterised by political vendetta. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah, on the instructions of the party high command, also protested against the operations conducted by NAB and FIA in the recently held meeting of the federal apex committee.
There are however credible portents to suggest that the federal government and the security establishment who are decidedly on the same page regarding the Karachi operation and the implementation of NAP, are determined to stay on course rising above the political expediencies. In the high-level meeting chaired by the prime minister on September 1 and the federal apex committee meeting, the message that was given unequivocally was that the Karachi operation would go on come what may.
The prime minister expressed dissatisfaction over some provinces not doing enough on the implementation of NAP. The committee decided to expedite action against militants in Balochistan, and crush elements challenging the writ of the state. Not only the government but the judiciary has also taken action against the machinations of the MQM. A full bench of the Lahore High Court has imposed a complete ban on the speeches of Altaf Hussain as well as his pictures.
In view of the foregoing developments and the support of the masses to the steps being taken by the Rangers in Karachi, and the unstinted resolve of the federal government and the security establishment to eliminate terrorism and militancy at all costs, the MQM and PPP have no choice other than bringing a paradigm shift in their outlook by dissociating themselves from target killers, militants and land mafias. Their hey days are over and sooner they realise this, the better. The political future of both these parties hinges on the required paradigm shift in their style of politics.
Public perception about the MQM and the provincial chapter of the PPP is not so enviable. Most people perceive them as patrons of target killers, extortionists and the land mafia. It would really be difficult for both of them to re-establish their credentials as political parties dedicated and committed to pursuing political objectives through political and legitimate means and the entities gravitating to promote public welfare.
It is said that perceptions are more important than anything else when it comes to winning public franchise. The MQM undoubtedly has a strong political base and the support of the majority of the Mohajir community in Karachi and Hyderabad. That support and energy needs to be employed to more productive channels instead of confrontation with the establishment and the federal government. The odds are heavily against the MQM and, therefore, it needs serious rethinking. Old tricks and antics are not going to work anymore. That is clearly written on the wall.
The same goes for the PPP, which has lost its status as the biggest national political entity and is now confined only to Sindh. That is indeed a very sad development but the party has only itself to blame for that. Its inability to deliver during its five years in power under Zardari, and the perception about unprecedented corruption indulged by the party big-wigs including two former prime ministers, are beyond any iota of doubt responsible for its complete rout in Punjab.
To be able to re-emerge as a potent political force at the national level, which Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is trying to do at the moment, will to a great extent depend on the party being able to resurrect its image through a genuine and honest effort geared towards discarding politics of graft and entitlement and taking a detour from traditional politics which has almost become redundant in the changed political environment.
Pakistan is faced with a now or never situation as far as terrorism, militancy and terror-related corruption and patronage are concerned. Therefore, political forces like the MQM and PPP need to extend unqualified support for the efforts to eliminate these scourges from the country. The security, integrity and survival of the country take precedence over all other considerations.
The federal government and security forces must accomplish the task without any hiccups, making sure that the Rangers operation in Karachi remains indiscriminate and transparent to the possible extent. Similarly the implementation of NAP must be ensured with utmost urgency. The provincial governments about whom the prime minister complained in the meeting of the federal apex committee meeting also need to pull up their socks and become willing partners in this national effort.
The writer is a freelance contributor.