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Updated: 5 days 21 hours ago

Step down if SC rules against you, Zardari tells Nawaz

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 13:30

KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has advised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to step down if the Supreme Court rules against him in the Panamagate case.

Speaking with anchor Javed Chaudhry in ExpressNews show ‘Kal Tak’ on Wednesday, Zardari warned that reluctance on Sharif’s part to accept the court verdict might have an adverse impact on democracy. “Premier Nawaz has never been in the habit of accepting things which go against him,” he said. “[But] if there is agitation, it won’t be good for democracy.”

Zardari gave the example of his own party in somewhat similar circumstances. “We did not resist when the Supreme Court disqualified [then premier] Yousaf Raza Gilani. We chose another prime minister,” he said. “Nawaz should do the same. The PML-N has many MNAs. Nawaz should step down and choose one of them as his replacement,” the PPP leader added.

Zardari also criticised the prime minister for not attending parliament’s sessions. “Sharif is running parliament like an emperor. He rarely visits any houses of parliament,” he said, adding that a prime minister who did not attend parliament sessions weakened democracy.

Panamagate suspense to end tomorrow

Commenting on the development work initiated by the Sharif administration, Zardari claimed all PML-N schemes were based on lies and deception. “Sharif claims everything by putting up an inauguration plaque. He even claims to be the man behind Pakistan’s nuclear programme,” he said. “The only thing the PML-N can successfully pull off is coordination with police.”

Conversely, the PPP, he added, did not ‘put its own plaque’ on many schemes. “Benazir Bhutto used to say, ‘some secrets you take to the grave’,” he said. The PPP leader added that his party was better at management and that the PML-N has “inherited a better government than we did.”

Zardari accused the federal government of ‘tunnel vision’ when it comes to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. He said the PML-N was only fixated on its own interests.

“The federation is taking controversial positions with Sindh on many issues to shore up support for the upcoming general elections,” Zardari said. “This is against the interest of Pakistan, the federation and the 18th amendment which made it possible for Sharif to become prime minister for a third time.”

Talking about rows with the centre on issues like gas and water, Zardari dispelled the impression that Sindh was being ‘rebellious’. “The province faces pressure. Everyone knows Sindh provides 67 per cent of the gas and needs only 37 per cent.

PM inaugurates Bhikki Power Plant, 717MW added to national grid

But the province receives only 18 per cent, which means you have to suspend generation at 12 power plants, which in turn necessitates load-shedding.”

He added that PPP would support the Sindh government if it decided to take over the offices of the Sui Southern Gas Company. “The centre and Sindh are already locked in confrontation. The prime minister and the federation should engage in dialogue with the Sindh chief minister to end this. If you do not let the chief minister do his job, naturally he will protest.”

The PPP leader vowed to take to the streets against the government over load shedding. “We will stage a sit-in against power outages, unemployment and inflation, and will protest till this government is dismissed.”

The post Step down if SC rules against you, Zardari tells Nawaz appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Over 150 surgeries performed at KTH under Sehat Insaf scheme

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 13:17

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Teaching Hospital (KTH) has performed some 157 surgeries of various natures since the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government-initiated its Sehat Insaf Card social health protection scheme in January.

According to a statement issued by the hospital management, so far some 570 patients have been facilitated at the Medical Teaching Institute (MTI) Khyber Teaching Hospital in the provincial capital.

Islamabad general hospital: Health facility likely to open in 2019  

It also stated that 150 patients were currently admitted at the facility and being provided medical assistance under the health card scheme.

“People with these cards were also facilitated during institutional-based practice (IBP) where consultants examined them at their respective offices and clinics within the facility,” the communiqué added.

KTH was the first government health facility to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the K-P health department regarding the health card scheme.

The post Over 150 surgeries performed at KTH under Sehat Insaf scheme appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

PHC disposes contempt petition against K-P education department

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 12:56

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has disposed of a contempt of court petition filed against the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa education department after it confirmed compliance with an earlier order and completed the appointment of 128 teachers in the district’s primary schools.

A division bench headed by Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth heard the case on Wednesday. Ijaz Sabi, the lawyer for petitioner Sajid Ali and several others, told the bench that the government advertised hundreds of posts in 2012 but actual appointments have been pending since then.

Sabi said the government later cancelled the advertisement and announced that it would hire people through the National Testing Service (NTS).

In a first, K-P introduces regional-language books in govt schools

He added that based on the ad, the petitioners had already applied for those posts, had given the required tests and had qualified on merit, but the government cancelled the advertisement in violation of rules and regulations and did not appoint them.

Sabi argued that the ad cancellation was illegal as NTS policy cannot be applied over the advertisement and the PHC had already ordered the authority concerned to appoint applicants who had qualified on merit.

“The PHC order has fallen on deaf ears as the education department has not issued appointment notification to petitioners,” he said.

However, a representative of the department appeared before the court and said that 128 applicants have been appointed at primary schools as an appeal was filed at the apex court.

He also provided appointment notifications of some the applicants.

The bench told Sabi to confirm the appointments and inform the court if qualified candidates have not yet been appointed. Following this, the bench disposed of the contempt petition.

The post PHC disposes contempt petition against K-P education department appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

PML-N mulls options ahead of Panamagate verdict

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 12:44

ISLAMABAD: The PML-N top leadership held a marathon brainstorming session on Wednesday to deal with the possible implications of the Supreme Court verdict in the Panamagate case, which is due today.

Soon after a meeting of PML-N’s Sindh chapter, which was convened to discuss the party’s reorganisation in the province, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif went into a low-key huddle with his senior aides – including federal ministers, lawmakers, advisers, special assistants and personal staff members – to discuss the looming Supreme Court judgment and its possible implications for the Sharif family and the ruling party, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“Different possibilities were considered,” said a source privy to the meeting. One of the possible scenarios the meeting discussed was a direct impact on Premier Sharif, the source added.

Panamagate suspense to end tomorrow

“Some party members hold the opinion that the prime minister might not be directly affected by the apex court verdict – but if the judgment has consequences for his family, it would eventually have a negative impact on the premier, at personal level, and on the PML-N, at the party level,” he said.

To respond to the situation, the PML-N leadership is set to resort to populist measures like reducing power outages – at least for the time being – in order to garner public support and to defuse pressure on the party.

Another possible scenario is the formation of a commission to probe the Panamagate scandal. “In such a scenario, the court can either ask the premier to step down till the commission completes its inquiry. Or the court can allow Sharif to stay on while ordering the formation of a commission to probe into the scandal,” an insider said.

“Either way, it would be damaging for us – given that even if the premier is allowed to work and a commission is formed, pressure would mount on Sharif to step aside and the PTI would fully cash in on the situation.”

A senior PML-N leader said the party leadership was deeply concerned at the apex court’s verdict. “Even if the respondents get a clean chit from the apex court, the situation could be heading towards political confrontation — street agitation, protests, and all that.”

Panamagate verdict will last for centuries: judge

He admitted that the ongoing power outages have already fuelled anti-government sentiments. “The public sentiment is not favourable right now. In such a situation, if things go to the point of street agitation, it would be a nightmare for us.”

For party circles, the possibility of premier’s disqualification is the ‘least anticipated scenario. The party leadership has not considered a replacement for Sharif if he becomes the casualty of the court’s verdict, sources said.

Political analyst Kanwar Dilshad says either scenario would be a ‘win-win’ situation for the PTI. “If a commission is formed, the opposition, especially the PTI, will get a chance to play politics and keep targeting the government on the Panamagate for a few more months, in addition to pressing for Sharif’s resignation till the completion of the inquiry.

“If the court verdict doesn’t affect the Sharif family, things will go for street agitation and the PTI would try to mobilise public against the PML-N government. And if the premier is sent packing by the apex court, what else would the PTI want?”

The post PML-N mulls options ahead of Panamagate verdict appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Our universities’ failures

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 12:34

Last week, 23-year-old Mashal Khan, a student at Abdul Wali Khan University (AWKU), Mardan, was lynched on university premises. The fact that it happened at an institution of higher learning is perhaps the saddest part of the whole episode. However, we have been here before. It happens every time when a mob of thugs attacks a young boy, a newly married couple or a poor woman and uses religion to satisfy our collective vulgar lust for violence. In many ways, this time is no different in reminding us how rotten our inner core is. But something is also different. The university, its faculty and its administrators, cannot absolve themselves from their responsibility of creating tolerance, a mission in which they have spectacularly failed.

The problem is not just with AWKU. It is much bigger. We cannot ignore that our institutions of learning are failing to create an environment where people can express themselves, learn from one another and disagree with dignity. If a university education does not teach us to respect one another or, at the very least, respect law, then there is something seriously broken in our institutions. Those who profess from the lectern and those who administer from plush offices must recognise that they are failing in their very basic duty, to equip the students with the basic tools of understanding, tolerance and human decency.

The increasing level of intolerance at the university has been there for anyone to see, but few choose to really see it. It wasn’t long ago that the Dean of Islamic Studies at Karachi University was killed. Others at our universities and colleges have seen a similar fate for their beliefs. Barring an institution or two, there is a real worry among faculty and students to express themselves or to even speak up lest a wrong word may make them another statistic, whose funeral prayers will not be offered by the local imam.

Universities across the country, in the light of the tragedy in Mardan, and other countless incidents of religious intolerance and bigotry, must take stock of their core mission. The core mission cannot simply be to accept students after an exam, make teachers come to class on time and dump information, ensure that the institution has regular tests, collect fees, calculate GPA and send the students back to where they came from. The university is not a tunnel in time from which we all must pass through. Instead, it is a place where ideas and ideals are formed, and foundations of a better society are laid.

The university leadership, faculty, staff and students need to own the evil that exists within all of us, and come up with serious, actionable strategies to create tolerance, understanding, respect and recognition of diverse points of view. This needs to be done at all levels and in all classes, regardless of the subject. Whether the student is pursuing a degree in mass communication or mathematics, statistics or sociology, the curriculum and the classroom must ensure that the students debate and discuss with respect and understanding, and respond to opinions by the strength of the argument and not the size of the mob. Above all, it must ensure that students are law-abiding citizens and are willing to act with integrity and fundamental human decency in trying times.

There has to be real evaluation by the universities and the powers that govern these institutions, on what higher learning means in terms of creating socially conscious, decent, respectful and tolerant human beings. The university’s mission, ultimately, is to be a place of inquiry and to create citizens who take us forward towards rational thought, equality and justice.

If a university fails to empower its students with fundamental tools of coexistence with others who do not share the same worldview, it has failed miserably and is no longer worthy of our social, human or capital investment.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

ECP disqualifies PTI’s Shangla MPA

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 11:31

PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) disqualified a Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly (K-P) lawmaker affiliated with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on Wednesday for hiding that he was working as a school teacher just before the elections.

The ECP ordered that criminal proceedings be started against Abdul Munim, who was elected from the PK-88, District Shangla constituency in the 2013 general polls, and the salaries paid to him also be taken back.

Munim was currently serving as the special assistant to the K-P chief minister on tourism. He had defeated Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) candidate Sher Alam to secure the seat.

PTI’s candidate bags Kohistan seat unopposed

Alam had filed a reference with the ECP seeking Munim’s disqualification on the grounds that the latter had been dishonest and not informed the commission that he was working as a teacher at a government school in Kohistan before the elections in May, 2013 and had drawn his last salary in March, 2013.

According to the ECP rules, a government servant cannot run for a seat for two years after their retirement.

ECP in the lurch sans provincial election commissioners

“He [Munim] had resigned during the general elections campaign but his resignation was not accepted and his General Provident Fund is still with the education department,” Alam told The Express Tribune.

“They [ECP] were not aware about his teaching job as he was a teacher in Kohistan which falls in Hazara Division. The Shangla constituency falls in Malakand Division,” he added.

“Last year we found out about his teaching job and then I filed a petition with the ECP on December 22 seeking his disqualification.”

A spokesperson for the ECP K-P said the schedule for the PK-88, District Shangla by-election would be announced soon.

Munim is currently in China to participate in a K-P government road show.

The post ECP disqualifies PTI’s Shangla MPA appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Students of Islamia College University protest against Mashal’s murder

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 10:02

PESHAWAR: Students and faculty members of Islamia College University (ICU) Peshawar held a rally on campus on Wednesday demanding justice for the brutal lynching of Mashal Khan, despite being barred from doing so by the administration.

Lecturer Riaz Hussain led the rally which was organised by the varsity’s English department. Scores of students and faculty members carried placards in support of Mashal and chanted slogans against his murder.

Twenty three-year-old Mashal, a journalism student at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan (AWKUM), was brutally lynched and shot dead by a mob of his fellow students on April 13 after being accused of blasphemy.

Mardan student lynching: Protesters demand justice for Mashal Khan

The ICU students demanded that the government provide justice to Mashal’s grieving family and take the perpetrators of the heinous crime to task. They also urged the government to create laws to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future.

Hussain said he had submitted an application to the university yesterday seeking permission to hold the rally but the administration had denied the request.

An ICU administration official told The Express Tribune that the purpose of denying the request was not to stop students from taking part in the rally. He said they had requested the organiser to simply postpone the rally for another day because of intermediate exams taking place in the university.

Protests against Mashal’s murder have been taking place all over the country since the harrowing incident occurred last week.

The post Students of Islamia College University protest against Mashal’s murder appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

US officials laud enactment of K-P Police Act 2017

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 09:53

PESHAWAR: Director United State Department for Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement-Pakistan (INL-P), Katie Stana and US Consul General for Peshawar Raymond McGrath met with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) home secretary and police chief, on Wednesday, to discuss continued commitment between the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement-Pakistan and K-P Police.

During the meeting with K-P Police Chief Salahuddin Khan Mehsud, who was recently appointed as the new inspector general of police, Katie highlighted INL’s cooperation with the K-P police and noted that in partnership with INL, the K-P police had managed to successfully train over 3,400 police personnel, including 69 female police commandos at the INL-funded Joint Police Training Center (JPTC). She lauded the enactment of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Police Act 2017 adding that it would further supplement the police force.

Speaking to the US officials, Mehsud stated that his priorities on law and order would focus primarily on defeating terrorists and criminals, continue to improve community-police relations, promote transparency and ultimately public confidence in the police.

The US officials also met with K-P home secretary where they discussed the K-P home department’s long association with INL; some 50 K-P officials have been trained for modern prison practices in Colorado, the US.

No political intrusion in K-P police: top cop

They also discussed INL’s contribution of 500 bulletproof vests and helmets, 10 bomb suits and 24 armoured personnel carriers worth US$4 million, part of the over $30 million INL reinforcement given to the K-P police this year.

The Bureau of INL works in more than 90 countries to help combat crime and corruption, counter drug-related crime, improve police institutions, and promote laws and court systems that are fair and accountable. The K-P police has been the largest recipient of INL police assistance in Pakistan since 2009.

The post US officials laud enactment of K-P Police Act 2017 appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Beef was never on Aligarh University hostel menu, claims Urdu writer

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 09:36

Rahat Abrar, a prominent Urdu writer, claimed on Wednesday that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of Aligarh Muslim University, was against cow slaughter by Muslims. He was speaking at the release of his latest Urdu work on Sir Syed titled Sir Syed Aur Unke Maasreen (Sir Syed and His Contemporaries).

Abrar quoted Sir Syed’s views from an article he had penned, “If prohibition of cow sacrifice can bring peace and friendship among the Hindus and the Muslims, it would be wrong on the part of the Muslims not to relinquish this right,” reported WION.

Sir Syed felt that Muslims should give up cow meat to maintain peace with Hindus, said Abrar, who is director of the Urdu Academy at AMU, while addressing a gathering at the ongoing bicentenary birth celebrations of the AMU founder.

India’s top court says no to national ban on cow slaughter

Abrar said there is a recorded incident where Sir Syed came to know that some students had purchased a cow to sacrifice on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha. This was during the early days of AMU when it was known as MAO College. Cow sacrifice was then prevalent all over the country.

Sir Syed, who was very upset by this, rushed to the hostel where the cow was kept and prevented the animal from being sacrificed, Abrar said.

Beef was never served in any of the AMU hostels under Sir Syed’s watch and non-vegetarian students were served buffalo meat.

Abrar went on to saying that  Sir Syed published an article in Aligarh Institute Gazette in 1897 lauding the efforts of the Muslims of Bareilly who voluntarily gave up cow slaughter on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha in deference to the sentiments of the Hindus.

Abrar said that contrary to some of the critics of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, the founder of the AMU never lost any opportunity to his last days in promoting India’s pluralistic ethos.

Most historians have not touched upon Sir Syed’s close association with Hindu social reformers like Arya Samaj founder Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Raja Ram Mohan Roy who was behind the ban on Sati, Sir Surendranath Banerjee, Lala Lajpat Rai, Raja Shiv Prasad of Banaras, Bhartendu Harishchandra and Raja Shambhu Narayan.

Abrar quoted a letter from Lala Lajpat Rai, who informed Sir Syed that “his father considered Sir Syed Ahmad Khan as a saint”.

The post Beef was never on Aligarh University hostel menu, claims Urdu writer appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

Discovery to build $400 million theme park in Costa Rica

Wed, 04/19/2017 - 09:26

Discovery Communications, owner of Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, will build a $400 million theme park in Costa Rica, the government said on Tuesday.

Disney-esque theme park planned near Lahore

Local investment firm Sun Latin America will be responsible for developing the 800-hectare (1,977-acre) project in the province of Guanacaste, a beach tourism destination some 225 kilometers (139.81 miles) north of the capital, the government said.

Go Aish adventure park in Karachi now open

The park, which will include hotels, eco-adventure activities, sports areas and restaurants, will generate some 2,000 jobs during its 2018-2020 construction, Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís told a news conference.

Discovery Communications and Sun Latin America did not provide details on their agreement.

The post Discovery to build $400 million theme park in Costa Rica appeared first on The Express Tribune.

Categories: Pakistan & World News

11-day extravaganza in FATA

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:27

It is rare for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) to host a national sporting event. Rarer still is it for the tribal regions to stage the first-ever super league T20 cricket matches. On Monday, the Fata super league opened amid much fanfare in the Jamrud sports complex of Khyber Agency.

Organisers say the purpose of the event is to promote a positive and peaceful image of Fata whose people have been stigmatised by years of insurgency and militancy. The young people of the region have been left deeply scarred by the resulting violence and bloodshed. For so long large segments of the Fata population remained confined to their homes instead of participating in healthy sports activities. Their energies in all that time were misspent in inactivity. But one hopes their talents will now be tapped more than ever.

Already people in the tribal region have begun to show their sporting prowess. Some of them have earned wide recognition as well in recent years. Their cricketers, for instance, have done enormously well against the teams of other, more mainstream regions. If there is anything lacking, it is exposure. With opportunities brimming, they could at last turn their backs on the wave of militancy that they experienced and endured in the not too distant past. One hopes the Fata Super League will bring a semblance of normality and peace to the area. It is that kind of image that we should all try to portray to the rest of the world.

Several top cricketers such as Salman Butt, Umar Amin and Muhammad Rizwan have already become a part of the 24-team league. The focus of the 11-day league will be encouraging and harnessing local talent: each team will field nine players from Fata while the other two players will be chosen from outside the tribal region.

Another encouraging feature about the league is that the funds collected for the event as well as the prize money have been exclusively raised by one of the region’s parliamentarians. In the days to come, one hopes more sponsors outside Fata would join in the effort.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

So is uniform uniformity uniform?

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:24

Whoever had a hand in the design of the new uniforms for the Punjab police it is crystal clear that they were no Dior or Versace. Or indeed anybody with design experience beyond the interior of an armoured fighting vehicle. There has been no change in the police uniform for decades and the black shirts and tan trousers have done sterling duty. The new issue stylistically is not unlike that favoured by Che Guevara and thus may be seen to have a certain cachet — though perhaps without the revolutionary connotations. It is a decidedly military shade of olive green which has led to wonderment in some quarters as to the possibility of the uniform being the thin end of the wedge and a hint towards the militarisation of the police more generally.

There is some debate also as to what is to be the final form of the latest law-enforcement apparel, and debate as well about the quality of pictures currently in circulation and the relative merits of images captured with a mobile phone as against those produced by an all-the-bells-and-whistles actual card-carrying camera. Where there does seem to be agreement it comes from field trials that indicate that the new uniform is comfortable, suitable for a the hot dusty environment and copiously supplied with pockets the better to secrete impromptu monetary donations made by members of the public in their daily interchange with law-enforcement agencies.

According to highly placed reliable sources, the design was selected after consultations and feedback from field commanders regarding cloth quality and a host of other details. It is not difficult to picture the runway event — fashionistas and top police brass taking notes as the models sashayed before them. Notes on cut, the set of the collar, that all-essential button placement. Sadly there do not seem to be any photos of the event in circulation and we can but hope for an injudicious leak. A little gentle satire aside we wish well to the new uniform, a replacement was long overdue. A comfy policeman is a happy policeman and that can only be a good thing.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Nakedly corrupt

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:19

Corruption in public life and offices usually has the decency to find itself a fig leaf to hide behind as it goes about its dirty business, but no such modesty on display with the removal of the Inspector General of Police (IG), AD Khawaja. This man is by all accounts an exemplary police officer with a track record of being uncorrupt and refusing to bend to political pressures when it came to making appointments or investigating crimes. In those very virtues lay his downfall — although the twist in the tail of the tale may be yet to come.

The provincial government is held by the Pakistan People’s Party, and it is the PPP collectively and individually that stands as nakedly corrupt in this tawdry affair. For the second time since the start of the year the PPP government had unseated IG Khawaja making little attempt to disguise the fact that it was his refusal to take political direction that was the reason why he got his marching orders. For the second time he now finds himself reinstated courtesy of the independently-minded Sindh High Court (SHC) that on Monday 3rd April suspended the notification of his removal on the grounds that it had not been ratified by the federal government as required.

At the time of writing there is no on-the-record comment by the Sindh government as to this reversal of its fortunes, but the affair is unlikely to be buried. The removal of Khawaja will directly impact on the ongoing ‘Karachi operation’ as he had the support and cooperation of all the law-enforcement agencies involved in this complex task — itself an unusual circumstance. The Sindh government was flying in the face of an existing SHC order by appointing a replacement for Khawaja — a move it was not mandated to take. It is for the PM himself to make appointments at grades 21 and 22, which he most certainly has not in this instance. It is the exemplary conduct of this upright man that brings us to the conclusion that a corrupt police force, corruptly led, is the only form of law-enforcement acceptable to the PPP establishment. They bring shame and disrepute on themselves and their governance, and IG Khawaja has our unwavering support.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Blocked roads

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:15

Let us start with a simple experiment. Imagine we have two kinds of balls, blue and red, that we want to roll down an incline. In this experiment, there are more blue balls than red ones, and also the red balls are well known to do better on the incline. From a probabilistic perspective, we all should agree that there should be more red balls at the end of the incline.

Lets now contextualise this experiment in the real world of Pakistani academia. Imagine that there are two kinds of students, type X and type Y entering medical schools. There are more of type X, and they also outperform students of type Y. Once again, we would expect type X students to do better through the career paths and reach leadership positions more often than type Y.

Well not quite, it turns out.

Despite the fact that female students outperform male students nearly consistently in high school exams, and there are significantly more (sometimes twice as many) female students than male students entering medical schools and universities, there is not a single female vice-chancellor of a medical university in the HEC ranked top medical institutions of the country.

The loss of opportunity for those who both outnumber and outperform their male counterparts, yet never make it to the top, is our collective loss. The argument for gender parity, opportunity and equity is not just a moral and a social argument, though both of these arguments are extremely compelling for a just and a fair society. It is also an economic one. Economists agree that one of the biggest sources of economic success of Nordic countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland is the emphasis on ensuring equal economic opportunity to both sexes. Development without an equal opportunity to grow is unimaginable and simply does not work. In Norway, by law, at least 40% of Norwegian boardrooms have to be filled by women. Some have argued that gender equity has been more profitable to Norway than its oil wealth.

In Pakistan, recent reports suggested that only 21 of the 559 companies listed on the Pakistan Stock Exchange have a woman director on their board. This comes to less than 4%, and while India has a long way to go, its representation is still twice as much as Pakistan. While the number in Pakistan is shameful, it is unsurprising and reflects a broader trend seen in other disciplines. The reason for this dismal fraction of women in key positions of corporate leadership, political office or in academic hierarchy, has nothing to do with quality, capability or ambition. The evidence actually points otherwise. Instead, it has to do with inertia and a fundamental sense of insecurity that the men in power seem to have. It has also everything to do with a notion of leadership that is typically attributed to those who happen to have a Y chromosome.

Yet, with an increasing awareness, and an understanding that status quo is hardly the way forward, there is also an increasing opportunity to chart a new course. A recipe for change has to include both men and women as equal participants. For men, the starting point is to develop an understanding and awareness, to face the evidence that connects fairness with success. It is us, men, who have to develop the strength to face our misogyny and ill-perceived notions of superiority, and a recognition that we can hold on to our best traditions of family, love, respect, and kindness and still embrace equity in the workplace. Equally critical is the active support and mentorship of colleagues, and an aggressive effort towards inclusion, and a break-down of systemic barriers. As many women in leadership position would argue, this goal is a team sport and the role of both inspiring and understanding women and men is critical to achieve this target.

Creating barriers in the path to success of talented and deserving women is neither an eastern tradition nor a recipe for a stable society. It is a product of insecurity of those in power, in a society that fails to recognise its own potential.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Time to walk the talk

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:13

This past Holi (March 14), the Hindu festival of colours and spring, something unusual happened; for the first time in Pakistan’s history, its people heard a prime ministerial Holi Day message that was entirely anchored in fundamental human rights, as enshrined in the Constitution.

For all of us, particularly those who have been critiquing the ruling elites for lacking a Rule of Law state narrative, Premier Sharif’s speech to Pakistani Hindus on the occasion of Holi marked a clear break from the undesirable past and present politics of expedience, when he underscored that “no one can force others to adopt a certain religion”. His best quote was clearly centered on the Article 25 (equal citizenry rights): “God will not ask a ruler what he did for followers of a certain religion. He will ask people such as me: what did we do for God’s creation?” He went on to say, “No matter what religion or beliefs you follow, or what part of the country you belong to, you must be provided equal access to progress and development”. The prime minister also took a dig at those involved in forcing Hindu and Christian girls to convert to Islam.

The unusually bold message caused considerable unease among the clerics, with one Allama Ashraf Jalali of the Pakistan Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat group and secretary of the Sunni Ittehad Council, going to the extent of issuing a fatwa against him. “The prime minister said such words that the Earth should have exploded,” he claimed, adding that Sharif “violated his oath, the ideology of Pakistan, as well as the Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). His speech is a dangerous attack on Islam.” “We demand a public apology from the prime minister (for his anti-Islam speech),” the cleric said in the video, according to various media reports.

Not many heeded the cleric’s radical interpretation of the constitutionalism that Sharif had expressed as the chief executive of a democratic dispensation. Nor should anyone else who believes in the sanctity of the Constitution as a document representing the will of the people, a document that is open to debate and revision to adapt to changing times, as the prime minister suggested.

Regardless of what motivated the prime minister into taking on the obscurantist views of the religious right, he has certainly set the ball rolling for the assertion of a national narrative rooted in the Constitution of Pakistan.

This, one would hope, would also relieve lots of officials of the pain that they endured in “finding a counter or alternative narrative.” Most have been struggling to come up with recipes, albeit without realising that how can you invent an alternative narrative to counter extremists when no narrative existed at all.

Now to make the narrative speak, the government shall have to look around in Islamabad and deal with illegal structures in the capital itself. There are more seminaries than public schools here. Instead of penalising them, the CDA tends to accommodate the administrators of these structures.

The narrative will become credible when the government uses the Supreme Judicial Council to chuck out judges who are using religion for social and political glory. The prime minister needs to tell all citizens that the nation’s salvation and progress lies in opening doors and avenues and not shutting down the internet or social media. He also needs to convey to the nation that if some misguided social media activists are indulging in the abuse of others, the answer lies in informed responses and not a crackdown on social media. Imposing a ban or announcing a clampdown is hardly an intelligent response.

Another test for the rule-of-law-based national narrative is to punish people caught red-handed rather than allowing VIPs to take cover of their privileges. Justice needs to be seen to be done. Mere talk won’t lend it any credibility. It depends on how rulers walk the talk.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Why Bhutto matters

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:11

Last month Pakistan played host to an important ECO summit. In the largest gathering of Asian countries the joint resolution did not mention Kashmir. As the oldest dispute on the UN docket, and as a flashpoint between two nuclear countries, there should have been no argument on the contention that Kashmir merited attention.

This is not how it always was for Pakistan. Flashbacks to the OIC summit that Lahore hosted in 1974 under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s (ZAB) leadership come to mind. At a moment when the Muslim world stands under siege, the absence of a statesman is felt. What would Pakistan be doing at this stage, and how would Islamabad be telegraphing its key role in re-shaping the global narrative had Pakistan’s first popularly elected Prime Minister not been executed? As the country lurches from crisis to crisis again, it seems an unavoidable question.

It is also that time of year. April 4 reminds us of the statesman that the country lost to the ambitions of a cardboard-cutout of an archtypical dictator. In forcing through ZAB’s judicial execution, Ziaul Haq snatched both our history and our future, ripped it from its evolution, and brought Pakistan headlong into a proxy jihad whose murderous spawn we cannot rid ourselves of today.

In many ways Pakistan’s innocent new generations continue to pay the price. Like Lady Macbeth’s hands, the blood just does not wash away. The existential trauma Pakistan faces today may not have stemmed from that day, but most of this murderous militant path was locked on course then. Look at the ruin about us. The smoke and blood from Sehwan in Sindh, the lawyers’ massacre in Quetta still simmers, while the APS carnage in Peshawar, and 2016 Easter in Lahore have become permanent scars. Religion has become a tool of the forces unleashed in our geopolitical search for security, and actually blurred our real security needs, both social and strategic.

Muslims are facing a dangerous world, where we are often judged by our identity and religious denomination, anguished by the bloodthirsty appropriation of a peaceful faith. Islamophobia and its exclusions are much bigger than Pakistan, but so often the dots to global episodes are landed at Pakistan’s door. In daily global discourse, the millenarian dangers of Daesh, the balkanised Middle East and its African dystopias are rarely connected to policy dominoes triggered long ago by great gaming power coalitions in Afghanistan. Pakistan became a country transformed by that encounter with proxy jihad against the Soviet Union. The arguable winning of that war cost us our peace. Yet, at the same time, no one can dispute the fact that Pakistan too became a player in those coalitions, without its parliament, without its consent, and lives today to reap that harvest.

These lost pages of our history point to roads not taken. True, it was a pre-9/11 world, where states still held the monopoly on the use of force, and non-state actors hijacking national agendas was not the norm. Pakistan was no unspoilt paradise, in fact, quite the contrary. East Pakistan had been lost not in one war of secession, but a series of exclusions and apartheids, both economic and political, that started with the language riots of 1952. Politics was a palace-led parlour game, where the voice of the hungry, the dispossessed and the landless was rarely heard. The country’s morale was at an all-time low, with prisoners of war in India, and a perilous sense of national drift. In this age of anxiety for Pakistan, like a classic tragic hero, with Promethean will and flaw, ZAB became the voice of a leaderless nation, pulling off foreign and social policy coups no one else could. Many of us still remember the Foreign Minister who tore up what was supposed to be the famous Polish Resolution on Kashmir at the United Nations, saying “my country harkens for me”. As the Prime Minister of a truncated country, he not only re-built the shattered economy, but brought back 90,000 soldiers from New Delhi’s prisons as his first task. His diplomacy gave the vexed India-Pakistan relationship the steadying hand of a statesman, with the Simla Treaty and the Middle Eastern spigot of the labour-remittance boom from the newly taking-off Gulf economies. While his government is remembered for building big infrastructure and cutting a wide swathe through bad governance, his commitment to the federation is often forgotten, sometimes deliberately so. An entire generation is fed the malicious canard that it was his ambition to assume power in West Pakistan that led to the ultimate secession of what is today Bangladesh. To the contrary, in fact, a little research will remind that after the 1970 election, ZAB had made it clear that he would prefer a democratic solution to the crisis of power-sharing between the two wings of Pakistan. Here is how it went: East Pakistan, with its higher population, had by then united behind Mujibur Rahman. On 31st October 1971, to be precise, in an interview to the Mumbai newspaper, the Blitz, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (SZAB) made it quite clear that he was willing to lead his party into the opposition. He said, and I quote, “If Mujibur Rahman had a federal constitution, we would be happy to sit in the opposition and work in a democratic arrangement. But he wanted a confederal arrangement, and in a confederation, both sides had to have representation in the government”. Yet this point is brushed aside as is the fact that in complete contradiction to the charge sheet made to hang a man, SZAB had never sought the boycott of the National Assembly, but a small delay in its session so that space for an accommodation could be worked out before a conflagration took place in an atmosphere already muddied by high emotions and mis-representations. The Hamoodur Rahman Commission stands up to the light of day to expose hard truths, on which a panel of judges clearly examined evidence and testified to SZAB’s sincerity in attempting to avert a crisis, but that too is tossed aside in the face of a mountain of mythology spun out during the Zia years to protect a shaky regime from the power of Bhutto’s legacy.

In all the vilification that followed his judicial execution, many born after that era forget that Bhutto became the one leader who plotted a middle path for a fragmented and sect-riven Muslim world. Pakistan not only befriended Iran but also loomed large on the Middle Eastern monarchies. As the initiator of hard nuclear power he gave Pakistan strategic leverage. Many today contest its uses, but it remains the main card in Pakistan’s deterrence posture. More importantly, Bhutto should be remembered for his leadership of Pakistan, flaws and all, into a modern future where the nation could stand on its economic feet as sovereign and self-resourced.

He worked himself and his cabinet to deliver on his manifesto promises. For all those who ask what Mr Bhutto’s government accomplished, all they need to do is to talk to the 45% of the poor of Pakistan, who now live under two dollars a day, in a dangerously high statistic, where economic suicides and the selling of one’s own children has become a gruesome new statistic. These people remember a government that brought them food on their tables, that raised their wages, provided housing and jobs and schooling. Most importantly, they remember a leader and a party that addressed them directly. Today, like every terrorist targets the progressive parties, for decades every military dictator feared the legacy of SZAB. The country’s courts stand testament to state money spent on creating political alliances to keep his iconic daughter from leading a powerful government. Benazir Bhutto’s own story is a chronicle of so much struggle, yet she too embodied resistance to the enemy of her era, which morphed into terrorism and extremism. She too died as bravely as her father. If SZAB gave Pakistan the 1973 Constitution that kept the country united, the last PPP government gave it the long-delayed implementation of the diffusion of power.

This is the legacy which the young scion of the Bhutto clan must now defend, in a world riven by conflict, chaos and confusion. Because Bhutto’s party is still the only one which has paid a heavy price on the battlefield of ideas and politics. Years after ZAB’s death, his slogan of Roti, Kapra aur Makan, still resonates with the people who need it again today. The PPP is the only mainstream party that stands up with no equivocation for the rights of the most vulnerable, and it is the only party that addresses squarely the terrorism challenge of the day. Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto would have it no other way.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Behind the distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:08

Of late bilateral relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan nosedived after several terrorist attacks in Pakistan in which Afghan nationals were found involved — leading subsequently to the closure of the Durand Line border between the two countries.

Ties between Islamabad and Kabul have never been smooth and there have always been issues in mutual relations mainly due to historical distrust between them.

The distrust is rooted in their respective national narrative, which has historically been dominated by their undemocratic and non-representative power elite. Pakistani power elite is composed mostly of its civil-military bureaucracy and the agriculture and industrial classes. The Afghan power elite have traditionally been composed of its civil-military-intelligence establishment and so-called politicians, mostly members of Communist groups, without having a political constituency plus certain pseudo-intellectuals.

In order to have legitimacy, the undemocratic power elite in Afghanistan supported by the national media networks and in pursuit of their vested commercial interests, have been fanning sentiments of hatred among Afghans against Pakistan. Consequently, Afghanistan, without any legal ground, since Pakistan’s emergence in 1947, has been raising irridentist claims on large tracts of Pakistani territory. This was the origin of the distrust between Islamabad and Kabul. Otherwise, before getting independence Muslims of areas comprising Pakistan had had a great reverence and emotional attachment with Afghans. For instance, Chaudhry Rehmat Ali while proposing the name PAKISTAN included Afghania or Afghan as a main component in the terms or concept of Pakistan. Consequently, since the early 1970s Pakistan, equally without any legal justification, has been trying to locate strategic depth in Afghanistan by making the state its virtual dependency. However, one aspect of these relations is quite clear that it was Afghanistan which initiated issues between the two countries, thinking Pakistan as one of the successor states of British India would be weak. It proved otherwise however for Afghanistan.

In order to pursue their respective interests the power elite of Afghanistan and Pakistan have also been creating and supporting proxy militant and terrorist groups to create conditions for realisation of these objectives. Therefore, Afghanistan started by hosting and cultivating Pakistani Pashtun separatists by forming a terrorist group ‘Zalmay Pashtun’ to carry our terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the 1970s to create conditions for secession of Pashtun areas of Pakistan and formation of a pro-Afghanistan, Pashtunistan state besides hosting and nurturing Pakistani Baloch separatists. Pakistan responded by hosting anti-government Afghan clerics in Pakistan and militants trained them to create trouble in Afghanistan followed by hosting, training and arming anti-Soviet Afghan Mujahideen (1980s) and the Taliban (since 1994) to capture state power in Afghanistan and thus to provide Islamabad strategic depth in Afghanistan vis-a-vis India. Thus it has been the undemocratic and unrepresentative power elites of Pakistan and Afghanistan which have been formulating policies regarding the other state, which have been to the detriment of common Pakistanis and Afghans and thus regional peace and stability. However, the realities of international politics also played a significant role in the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan in which both states have been pursuing their perceived national interest rather than having friendly or good neighbourly ties with the other. The Democratic Peace Theory of International Relations contends that two democratic states do not go to war and create conflict and try to resolve their disputes pacifically. Whereas, the theory of liberal economic interdependence argues that trade between states creates economic interdependence and disincentives war and conflict between and among states. Another theory Material Incentives as Drivers of Political Violence (Humphreys and Weinstein, 2008) argues that groups resort to violence in order to get material incentives. All these theories are quite relevant to the undemocratic power elite-dictated relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

To sort out the distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan there is a need for continued democratic institutionalisation, which is possible in turn through enhanced participation of Pakistanis and Afghans in the democratic processes, which in turn is possible through informed public opinion to know the objectives of their power elite policies regarding each other’s state. Moreover, that the trans-boundary water and energy projects in Pakistan and Afghanistan are mutually beneficial; therefore they must be supported. Unfortunately, little development is taking place in Afghanistan regarding democratic institutionalization. Moreover, while Pakistan has shunned its policy of locating strategic depth in Afghanistan as unequivocally announced by Adviser to Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz some months back, Kabul is still refusing to recognise the Durand Line as the permanent border between the two countries. In this situation distrust cannot be removed.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 4th, 2017.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Pakistan ready to work closely with Afghanistan, says army chief

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 15:08

Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said Pakistan would continue its positive role in bringing about peace and stability in Afghanistan.

“Peace in Afghanistan is a shared interest and Pakistan will continue its positive role and is ready to work closely with Afghanistan,” he remarked during his visit to the UK Ministry of Defence on Monday.

The chief of army staff (COAS) was presented a guard of honour at Horse Guards Square where CGS Gen Sir Nick Carter welcomed him, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.

#COAS in UK. Met UK Chief of Defence Staff, UK Spec Rep for Afg & Pak and US Resolute Sp Msn Commander.

— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) April 3, 2017

Gen Qamar, who is on a three-day official visit to Britain, reiterated that Pakistan is a peace loving country and shall continue to play its positive role in bringing about enduring peace and stability in the region.

“Pak-Afghan bilateral border security mechanism is critically important and both the countries need to formulate this at priority,” Gen Qamar added.

#COAS UK Visit….

— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) April 3, 2017

Later, the COAS had separate meetings with UK Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Owen Jenkins and also US Resolute Support Mission (RSM) Commander General John Nicholson.

Repatriation of Afghan refugees resumes

He also shared various border control/management measures which Pakistan has undertaken and urged the requirement of similar measures on other side of the border to defeat the common enemy.

Highlighting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Gen Qamar said the the multibillion-dollar project should be viewed as an economic manoeuver since it aims at fostering inclusive development in best interest of the region and beyond.

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Pakistan’s role for peace lauded

The UK leadership and RSM commander appreciated and acknowledged positive role played by Pakistan and Pakistan Army towards peace and stability.

Matters of mutual interest including regional geo-political environment with special reference to Afghanistan came under discussion.

The COAS also thanked British leadership for their assistance during the war on terror.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

Tunisia shuts down nightclub over call to prayer remix

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 13:35

TUNIS: Tunisian authorities have shut down a nightclub and begun an investigation after a DJ played a remix recording of the call to prayer, an official said on Monday.

A video, widely shared online since Sunday, shows clubbers dancing at the weekend to music that includes the call to prayer at the club in the northeastern town of Nabeul.

The footage sparked a storm of debate on social media.

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The party, near the popular resort of Hammamet, had been organised by two European DJs.

“After confirming the facts, we decided to close this nightclub” until further notice, Nabeul governor Mnaouar Ouertani said.

He said an investigation had been opened and the club’s manager detained “for violation against good morals and public outrage against modesty”.

“We will not allow attacks against religious feelings and the sacred,” Ouertani added.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News

No one will be allowed to damage heritage sites, SC tells govt

Mon, 04/03/2017 - 12:17

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court took a strong position on Monday and observed that it will not allow heritage sites in Lahore to be damaged. While hearing the Rs45 billion Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) project case, Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh stated that nobody will be permitted to violate the law in this regard.

“People who do not preserve the past have no future,” Justice Azmat Saeed remarked.

The five-judge bench of the apex court headed by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan on Monday resumed the hearing of Punjab government and other appeals against the Lahore High Court verdict on the project.

Shahid Hamid, counsel for NESPAK, concluded his arguments on Monday. The counsel played a video before the bench wherein complete route that the train will take was highlighted.

He contended that heritage sites are completely preserved during construction. Punjab government is already under fire because of the project as international experts have also submitted contradictory environmental assessment reports on it.

If cleared, Orange Line may be delayed by a year

The SC on October 14, appointed a commission comprising technical experts – Typsa-Asian Consulting Engineers and Prof Robin Coningham – for re-verifying the National Engineering Services Pakistan’s (Nespak) report, titled ‘Vibration Analysis of Viaduct Evaluation of Effects on Heritage Buildings’.

In the report, it was claimed that there was no threat to any of the five heritage buildings either during the construction of viaducts or during the operation of the electric train.

However, the report compiled by Prof Coningham raised several objections over Nespak report, which had allowed the Punjab government to launch the project.

Prof Coningham observed that the train route contravened clause-22 of the Antiquities Act, which stated that no new construction could be undertaken within a distance of 200 feet of a protected immovable antiquity.

It said the train route also flouted clause-23 of the same act, which barred placing of neon signs or other advertisements, including signage and poles near the protected immovable antiquity.

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Categories: Pakistan & World News