Revolt? Not here - Chris Cork - Monday, February 28, 2011

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As the Arabs busy themselves with throwing off repressive and despotic regimes I inevitably bump into friends and colleagues who express a desire for similar here in the Land of the Pure. They point to a crumbling economy and a state that seems to earn its international living these days by begging – bringing a whole new dimension to the phrase ‘professional beggar’. They tick off the usual checkpoints: - terrorism and internal instability, a galloping demographic, a layer-cake of incompetence at every level of government, institutionalised corruption and dynastic political systems. Where, they wonder are the future leaders, the Jinnahs who may come to save us all from fundamentalism before it eats us up? With the educated middle class having abdicated the political role in favour of being a kaffee-klatch that pelts the Establishment with finely-tuned witticisms from the safety of its Facebook page – is not revolution the only route left to us? Despite appearances to the contrary ours is not a particularly despotic regime. It is a bumbling quasi-democracy held together by the military, and all beneath the democratic fig leaf of something vaguely resembling a parliament. There is mass participation in political activity and currently there is a cautious experiment around the idea of letting a government run its course. The politicians who are this day dancing the lobster gavotte in Punjab may be kidding themselves that they are pushing us towards a mid-term election, but it’s all theatre and we will happily and passively watch a performance that has run for at least fifty years and seems to show no sign of flagging.

There are ‘disappearances’ and intimidation, there are concerted attempts to stifle the media from time to time and a regular butchery of innocent civilians by assorted groups who have no interest in anything beyond bombing us back to the stone age. Any signs of popular protest against any of this? Beyond a loyal band of brave souls who demonstrate outside press clubs, blog with the utmost earnestness and seem to number in the few thousands and not the millions that would be needed to bring real change - no. Honour killing is elevated to being a grisly national spectator sport ritually decried for the regulation two days and then put back on the shelf. We even have politicians of national stature defending it in parliament. Mass protests against honour killing? Child rape and murder? Lack of provision of schools and health services? Absolutely not. No sign of mass food riots either despite over 30% of the population being food insecure – which is a polite way of saying they are half-starved. You’d think a few million hungry people might be able to kick a bit of a revolution into life wouldn’t you? Apparently not.

Our rulers can watch events elsewhere safe in the knowledge that their positions are secure and most unlikely to be challenged. And why might this be, Dear Reader? Because we are united in our dis-unitedness. Because you would never see a group of Christians linking arms around a group of praying Muslims to protect them as they did in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Nor all march under a single flag. Nor tolerate – nor even contemplate - a move across political, cultural and ethnic boundaries in such a way as to present a united front. Grumble and fulminate we may, but there is no unifying issue beyond blasphemy that is going to coalesce ‘the masses’ and provide a real and credible challenge to the status quo. So no revolt here, now or in the foreseeable future. Sorry to have disturbed you, you can go back to sleep now.

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email:

Crisis of credibility - S Iftikhar Murshed - Monday, February 28, 2011

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Friday's announcement by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that the PML-N had decided to sever its links with the PPP in Punjab is yet another phase in the murky world of Pakistani politics. In the press conference the PML-N chief wore the mask of injured innocence and recapitulated the atrocious performance of the PPP-led federal government, though his own party has hardly fared any better in Punjab. The composition of the Punjab government will change with the bonding between the PML-N and the 47 members of the Unification Group from the PML-Q, but the formidable problems confronting the country will remain.

The swearing in of Yusuf Raza Gilani on March 25, 2008, as the 17th prime minister of Pakistan was the curtain-raiser to a tragicomedy enacted by a cast of artless political leaders. In the nearly three years since then, his government has reneged on its commitments or revised its policies on critical issues on no less than 15 occasions. It is almost as though the leadership of the country believes, as Oscar Wilde did, that "consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative."

In the process, the government has created a crisis of credibility for itself. What it does not realise is that credibility is like delicate porcelain which, if broken, is almost impossible to restore. No one takes the leadership of the country seriously anymore and this became apparent within months of the February 2008 elections. Thoughtless pronouncements are made at the highest level only to be proved false later.

For instance, on Nov 22, 2008, President Asif Ali Zardari took the world by storm when, during a videoconference organised by The Hindustan Times, he told his audience that Pakistan would "certainly not" be the first to use nuclear weapons. In one sweep Pakistan's security, underpinned by its nuclear doctrine, was rent asunder. The reaction of Indian strategic analysts, such as C Uday Bhaskar, was: "We have to wait till tomorrow to see how the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi responds to Mr Zardari's political initiative." Four days later the Mumbai attacks took place.

For the past one month, the attention of the Pakistani leadership and the media has been riveted on the Raymond Davis incident. It is almost as though there was nothing else of any consequence. Here again there have been contradictory statements galore, thereby again bringing the credibility of the federal government into question. The former PPP information secretary, Fauzia Wahab, told the media in Karachi that Davis had immunity under the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Yet four hours later, presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar declared that what Ms Wahab had said were her personal views and did not reflect the party's position. Qamar Zaman Kaira, who barely a week earlier had been ingloriously ousted from the federal cabinet, replaced Ms Wahab as the ruling party's information czar.

Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Quraishi--who acquired the reputation of a diplomatic Bertie Wooster when he stated after the Zardari-Sarkozy talks at the Elysee Palace on May 15, 2009, that France had agreed to provide civilian nuclear technology to Pakistan--has also added to the confusion on the Davis affair. Peeved at reportedly being transferred to the water and power ministry in the recent cabinet downsizing, Quraishi decided to quit the government, but not the PPP, and is now posing as the fifth martyr of the Davis episode. In one histrionic outburst after another he has claimed that he was removed from the foreign ministry for not knuckling under US pressure to concede diplomatic immunity to Davis.

Far more serious than the storm generated by Davis was Interior Minister Rehman Malik's claim in the National Assembly on Jan 28 that he possessed evidence of a blueprint for the break-up of Pakistan. The first stage in this scheme was to stoke the unrest in Balochistan and raise it to the level of a province-wide insurgency. Without identifying the masterminds, the interior minister said the plot had been foiled because of timely intervention by the military. On Jan 25 he told media representatives that the government had captured terrorists in Karachi who had planned to assassinate leaders of the MQM, the PPP and the ANP, as well as journalists. Their objective was "to turn Karachi into Lebanon."

Both claims made by Rehman Malik have been received with skepticism because of the government's credibility problem. However, they cannot be brushed aside because Pakistan has had more than its share of high drama in the 63 years since its emergence. There have been wars, insurgencies, recurrent terrorist incidents, military coups and political assassinations. As if this were not enough, in 1971 Pakistan became the only country in history where the majority population seceded from the minority.

Those who do not learn from history are liable to commit the mistakes of the past. Since the birth of Pakistan in 1947, its people have been told that their country was in danger. This was probably true, and the threat persists, with the difference that it now mostly emanates from within the country. There has undeniably been external interference in Pakistan and this will remain so long as the government does not take drastic measures to address the near-collapse of the economy, which, in turn, spawns extremist violence and terrorism.

The continuing economic haemorrhage of the country can no longer be sustained. Pakistan is rapidly heading towards insolvency with the widening of the revenue-expenditure gap. There are only 2.5 million taxpayers out of an estimated adult population of 86 million. The major state-owned enterprises have totted up colossal losses that reached 245 billion rupees in 2009-10. According to UNICEF, malnourishment in Sindh is at more than 21 per cent of the population, and this not only surpasses the level prevailing in sub-Saharan Africa but is also way beyond the 15 per cent emergency threshold established by the World Health Organisation. The ingredients for political chaos, and even anarchy, are in place.

It is futile to expect the current political leadership, whether in government or in the opposition, to salvage the situation, because they are the cause of the problem. In his press conference Nawaz Sharif hinted at possible midterm elections. This is not the answer, because elections, whenever they are held, will only yield the same poisonous harvest of a corrupt leadership. There has to be immediate and radical change because the continuation of the economic meltdown and the political turmoil will be disastrous for the country.

Some analysts have suggested that a possible way out is the replacement of the federal and provincial governments by interim dispensations of technocrats mandated to carry out reforms, through a decision by the Supreme Court under the Roman law maxim of salus populi lex or "let the welfare of the people be the supreme law." They have no hesitation in admitting that this was precisely the justification advanced by the Dogar Supreme Court in validating Pervez Musharraf's proclamation of emergency, which was described as an "extra-constitutional step," rather than an "unconstitutional measure."

The writer is the publisher of the Criterion quarterly. Email:

Being bigger than the law - Hussain H Zaidi - Monday, February 28, 2011

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When the singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was held up by the authorities in India, the reaction back home was, how could an artiste of his stature be meted out such treatment. It was also alleged that what lay at the bottom of his detention was traditional Hindu antipathy towards Pakistanis and Muslims going back to the bifurcation of India more than six decades back, and beyond that.

Rahat, no doubt. is a singer par excellence, whose popularity transcends geographical boundaries. With the film industry of Pakistan in a hopeless condition and that of India booming, every Pakistani artiste—singer and performer—is panting for making his or her name in Bollywood. However, few of them have matched or even come closer to their countryman Rahat in the appreciation and following that he commands across the borders. That Rahat at the moment is the most sought0after male singer in Bollywood testifies not only to his tremendous talent but also to the fact that a good voice is appreciated, irrespective of its country of origin.

But great talent, whether in science or literature, sports or showbiz, is not bigger than the law of the land. Therefore, no one should break the law and get away with that on the flimsy ground that he or she is someone special. In a way, since the stars are a role model, they need to show greater respect for the law than the ordinary citizen.

Coming to the case of Rahat, every country places some restrictions on the movement of foreign exchange and a person who is leaving the country with forex in excess of the permitted amount has to make a declaration to that effect before the customs. India, of course, is no exception. Rahat did transgress his host country’s laws while trying to leave the country without declaring that the dollars that he was carrying well exceeded the amount he was allowed.

The singer confessed to the transgression but maintained that he didn’t do so intentionally. And there’s hardly any reason one shouldn’t agree with him. But wittingly or unwittingly, he did violate the law and was detained and fined for that. Rahat subsequently apologised to his Indian fans for what he called letting them down. It was a simple case in which the writ of the law was enforced irrespective of the status of the person on whom it was enforced. Reading any ulterior motive into that is unwarranted, uncalled-for.

That episode, however, was evidently rather amazing for us Pakistanis, who believe that one’s exalted status in society entitles one to special treatment. Therefore, the reaction which Rahat’s detention precipitated was quite normal and brings out a singular feature of our culture—that the rich and famous, the high and mighty, are bigger than the law.

Take an ordinary example. If someone runs the red light and is stopped by the traffic constable with the intention of handing down the penalty for the violation, the typical response is: You can’t do this to me; don’t you know I’m a politician, a parliamentarian, a councillor, a lawyer, a government officer, a serviceman, a journalist, a showbiz or sports star, or someone closely related to any of these so-called VIPs? In case the poor constable is brave enough to do his duty and insists that the errant driver pay the fine, all kinds of threats are hurled at him. The message is loud and clear that even if ”I“ have broken the law, because of my position or connections, ”I“ should be allowed to go scot-free.

This exactly happened sometime back when a silver-screen star, better known for her real-life anecdotes, got into an argument with a policeman who dared to stop her for driving a car with the blinds pulled on in violation of traffic rules. Instead of acknowledging her mistake and quietly paying the fine, the lady lashed out at the constable: how come she, a celebrity, was being treated like an ordinary citizen.

In our VIP culture, being powerful or influential means being above the law. If you are a VIP, you needn’t pay a single penny in taxes or return bank loans, and of course you can stash away as many dollars, pounds, euros and francs as you want. Rest assured, neither tax nor customs nor bank officials would lay their hands on you. How little our millionaire politicians, business tycoons and leading sportspersons and entertainers, who always brag about their patriotism, pay in taxes is all too well-known to mention. The authorities wouldn’t dare bring them into the tax net, because they are special persons and need to be given special treatment. Little wonder, then, that we have one of the lowest tax-GDP ratios and one of the highest loan defaults in the world and public revenue always lags well behind public spending.

The author is a freelance contributor based in Islamabad. Email: hussainhzaidi@

Trailblazing weeks - Roedad Khan - Monday, February 28, 2011

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People power has triumphed once again, and hounded dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, in this case another military one. It was people power alone which toppled Zine El Abedine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, both American protégés. Now Muammar Qaddafi appears to be on the way out.

Flashback to June 2005, when Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state of President George W Bush, swept through the Middle East to urge democratic change in the region and improve America’s image. In her keynote address at the American University in Cairo, she told 600 scholars and students: “We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.” Told that since the United States supported dictatorships for 60 years in the Middle East, what is the guarantee it will now support democracy? “For 60 years the United States pursued stability at the expense of democracy in the Middle East—and we achieved neither,” Secretary Rice responded. “Now we are taking a different course.”

She declared that “millions of people are demanding freedom for themselves and democracies for their countries. To these courageous men and women, I say today: All free nations will stand with you as you secure the blessing of your own liberty.” She went on to say: “There was a time, not long ago, after all, when liberty was threatened by slavery. There was a time, even more recently, when liberty was threatened by colonialism... Today liberty is threatened by undemocratic governments. Some believe this is a permanent fact of life. But there are others who know better. Throughout the Middle East, the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberties. It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy.”

“A hopeful future is within the reach of every citizen (in the Islamic world). The choice is yours to make. But you are not alone. All free nations are your allies.” A more powerful case for democracy in the Islamic world could not have been made out. But her words sounded so hollow, so hypocritical, so devoid of meaning. No wonder her address left people cold.

Flash forward to January 2011. When the protests began in Egypt, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Mubarak’s government as one “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” Then came special envoy Frank Wisner who called for Mubarak to stay in power, saying: “President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical.”

Why does US policy seem to be that democracy is good for Americans, Israelis, Afghans and Iraqis, yet dangerous for Egyptians and other people in the Middle East/North Africa region? For too many people in the Islamic world, especially Egyptians, it is becoming quite clear that the United States is conspiring with the regime in Cairo in its efforts to push only cosmetic reforms, while keeping the basic structure in power.

When millions of young students gathered in Tahrir Square in Cairo, President Obama jettisoned America’s ideals and placed himself on the wrong side of history. He decided to side with the Pharaoh right to the end.

Many questions come to mind:

* Why did Obama react so slowly to the democratic revolution in Egypt?

* Why did he maintain support for Mubarak so long?

* Why did he move more cautiously in the present crisis than did President Reagan, who moved away from Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines?

* Why was President Obama so slow to embrace the young protestors in Cairo?

* Why President Obama didn’t come out more strongly on their side?

President Obama never found the voice to clearly endorse the Tahrir Square Revolution until it was all over. The ambivalent, almost nervous, carefully calculated US reaction to the Egyptian revolution underscored the hypocrisy of the United States in often backing dictators over democracy. Almost till the end, the Obama administration seemed more confident with the regime than with people power. America was on the wrong side of history when youthful Muslims and Christians were at the barricades fighting for liberty, rule of law, human dignity and end to dictatorship. It is now abundantly clear that, despite the democratic rhetoric, America had all along been decidedly on the side of Mubarak.

People all over the world watched with horror how, with American acquiescence, Mubarak attacked pro-democracy young protestors with “made in USA” teargas shells. President Obama provided Mubarak time to recover from the shock, and to mobilise and arm his thugs and gangsters whom he used with deadly effect in Tahrir Square against peaceful, unarmed protestors.

Once we thought this one-of-a-kind American president would do great things. In his inaugural address President Obama focused more on “soft power” and told the Muslim world that he wants “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” All that seems to have changed. Obama appears to have forgotten America as an idea, as a source of optimism and as a beacon of liberty. For more than two centuries, America was the cradle of liberty, the destination point for those who seek to live in freedom, and the source of inspiration for those who want to make their own countries as free as America itself. No longer. These days nobody would think of appealing to the United States for support in the upholding of liberty—maybe to Canada, to Norway or to Sweden, but not to the United States.

“For a nation that honours democracy and freedom the United States has a nasty habit of embracing foreign dictators when they seem to serve US interests. It is one of the least appealing traits of US foreign policy,” The New York Times wrote in an editorial back in 2002, under the title “Dancing with dictators.”

So, what are the lessons we in Pakistan should take away from Tahrir Square?

* The days of corrupt rulers who loot and plunder the resources of their countries are over.

* The days of American lackeys, puppets and running dogs who sacrifice national interest to please their handlers are over.

* The days of fraudulent democracy Potemkin political institutions, rubberstamp parliaments and corrupt, spineless presidents and prime ministers are over.

The political momentum now rests entirely with the people. They can smell the march of their own power. At last, people have found their life mission, something to fight for, something to die for: fight dictatorship, military or civilian. They have also found the tool to achieve this mammoth task: street demonstrations. I have lived to see millions of my people indignant and resolute in the streets of Islamabad, demanding with an irresistible voice rule of law, independence of judiciary, ruthless accountability, and end to high-level corruption. It remains to be seen if that voice of liberty would prove to be durable. It is now or never. One thing is clear. Change is going to come sooner than you expect—if we work for it, if we fight for it, if we believe in it.

There is no other path for our country but the one Egyptians and Tunisians took, and now the Libyans are treading. Let us follow their example.

Watching the ally - Zafar Hilaly - Monday, February 28, 2011

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Those manning the ISI and those running the government are essentially from the same pod. And yet, while the former is considered among the best in the world, the latter is arguably the worst. All that changed the other day when a “senior intelligence official” in a rare bout of candour confessed that our spooks were clueless about Raymand Davis and CIA-contracted spies like him in Pakistan.

Being oblivious to scores of spies working for the CIA is inexcusable. Expecting the CIA to keep us informed of the identity and the nature of the work of its sleuths in Pakistan is delusional. It’s like joining the navy to see the world and then complaining that all one really gets to see is the sea. The CIA’s ability to fool friends and foes alike, including its own leaders, as the farce over the non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq showed, is infinite. Good spies would have heeded Leon Trotsky’s advice: “An ally has to be watched just like an enemy.”

If we can be caught napping on CIA operatives, when it is clear how fussed the US is about our nukes, a bigger question arises: how much better are we when it comes to what India is up to, given that RAW is of even greater concern than the CIA?

Yet another question arises: how good are we really when it comes to what goes on along our western border, among our extremists and the Afghans?

These questions inexorably arise considering our ignorance of the presence of CIA operatives when our relationship with them, notwithstanding the use of the term “allies,” has been expedient and unstable from the start.

It is, of course, good to know that we are mounting our own operations to gather intelligence on the CIA’s counterterrorism operations. These should begin by keeping a close tab on the 851 “diplomats” that the US has stationed in Pakistan, and for whom it will no doubt claim diplomatic immunity whenever their dangerous antics stand exposed.

Notwithstanding the welcome candour of the “senior intelligence official” and the general impression of competence that the people have about the ISI, it may well be that this is not the case and that reform and overhaul is needed. For example, whether it has become too big and bloated to be professionally on top of its job, and whether, because of its role in politics, it can be as sharp and focused as it should be on its intelligence work. If that is the case, we had better start now, and with a sense of urgency. We live in a dangerous neighbourhood and the last thing that we want in such a situation is an intelligence agency that does not meet the highest professional standards of performance.

On occasions what the “senior intelligence official” had to say the other day sounded naive like, for example, when he seemed to be objecting to the fact that the CIA was using pressure tactics to free Davis. What did he expect? For the CIA to leave Davis to the tender mercies of the Punjab police? So great has been the CIA’s eagerness to get Davis out and prevent his interrogation that even the hapless Obama was prevailed upon to lie about Davis being a diplomat. One wonders when Obama will finally get a grip on his military and the CIA. Thus far, he has been dragooned into endorsing Petraeus’s failing “surge” strategy in Afghanistan, the intensification of the massively counterproductive drone operations in Pakistan, at least in the long run, and now the CIA’s antics to get Davis released. Even the Cold War warrior-brothers Allen and John Dulles did not seem to have as much influence on Eisenhower as today’s generals and sleuths have over Obama. Whatever the “change” that Obama campaigned for, it has been a change for the worse for our region.

But there is a silver lining to the controversy that has erupted. Our reaction to the CIA’s duplicity will be a measured one. Ties will not be severed and collaboration against the greater enemy will continue. The point is to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” from the experience. We must learn from the public censure that has ensued, and rather than try and avoid, much less suppress it, devise better and more successful methods. This seems to be the spirit in which the “senior intelligence official” spoke, and it was a brave and novel manner of engaging with the public. It’s also a welcome development because the opacity that had hitherto shrouded their views is lifting. This accords with the open society that Pakistan is becoming, to our lasting credit, because that is what we want and what democracy is all about.

Just when we were beginning to lose hope in the ability of civilians to manage their own affairs the confession by our brother in uniform showed that they are no better. Having sat in front of a retired general entrusted with running a public-sector cooperation (into the ground, as it happened) and be told—mind you, with a straight face—that he and his ilk are “a special breed,” it’s a relief to know that being “conned” or misled is not the monopoly of civilians. That said, there is every possibility that they will learn from their mistakes, which is more than can be said about our politicians.

The writer is a former ambassador. Email:

Editorial - Slippery slopes - Monday, February 28, 2011

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There is a sense of the inevitable about the announcement by the National Electric Power Authority that it has approved a rise of 0.33 paisa per unit by the power distribution companies. The increase is made as a result of the monthly fuel adjustment charges which are linked to international oil prices. The rise was necessitated by increased diesel fuel consumption in January, when most of the power was generated by diesel-fuelled stations. For years successive governments have used subsidies to cushion us from the cost of energy from all sources. Our donors and the IMF and the World Bank have pressured us to remove the subsidies, which the government has with been doing, but further pain awaits us in the near and medium term.

The price of oil is extremely volatile. Events in Egypt and Tunisia barely affected it, but Libya is an oil-producing nation and once instability hit it a fortnight ago oil started to climb. The benchmark Brent crude futures for April delivery hit a spike of $119.79 a barrel on the afternoon of Thursday last week before falling back to $114.55 – a rise of $3.30 on the day. Japanese analysts Nomura on last Friday were predicting that if the flow of Libyan oil was completely stopped, prices could hit $220 a barrel. It was reported on Friday night that Libya had ceased oil production — and the worst-case scenario begins to unfold. Oil may suddenly get very expensive indeed – and is going to cost all of us a lot more, and soon. This exacerbates the government’s energy problems. On Thursday the finance minister presented two proposals relating to a rise in the price of petrol to President Zardari, which he declined and deferred a decision until next week citing ‘political difficulties’ in announcing any rise in fuel prices. The first proposal was an increase of domestic oil prices by 20 percent which would allow the government to recoup the cost of imported oil plus restoring the ‘normal’ level of petroleum products taxation. The second proposal was for an increase of 10 percent, close to the actual rise in international oil-price movement – but this would not claw back the revenue lost when the government was forced by public pressure to reduce taxes the last time around. This is a dangerous game which could feed through to yet another deterioration of the fiscal deficit which is currently being managed by the printing of money. Oil is slippery stuff, and the slick slope we live on has just steepened by several degrees.

ANALYSIS: Exports up, but can face strains —Muhammad Aftab - Monday, February 28, 2011

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Increase in prices of exported products, including textiles and rice, plus rising home remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis and inflow of the Coalition Support Funds to fight terrorism, have improved the current account. It saw a $ 26 million surplus during the first half

In spite of the overall business slowdown, Pakistani exports have recorded an impressive growth during the seven months to January 2011. But the ongoing (read spreading) political turmoil in the Middle East, Gulf and Africa can inflict substantial strains.

Pakistani exports rose 22.66 percent to a total of $ 13.227 billion during July-January period of the current fiscal 2011, the Federal Bureau of Statistics reported. This compares very favourably with exports of $ 10.784 billion in the like period of FY-2010.

Textiles, the country’s biggest industry, chiefly led the boost as unit prices for Pakistani products rose in the country’s traditional markets abroad. Textiles alone recorded a 25.88 percent growth. But other products also did well in contributing to the surge. Export of leather products, for instance, rose 17.22 percent, with a total sale of $ 330.6 million, up from $ 282 million in the like period of last year.

Exports of textiles during the seven-month period were $ 7.44 billion — up from $ 5.92 billion in the like period of FY 2010. Exports of cotton, cotton yarn, and cotton cloth rose too.

Some of the key products that contributed to exports included cotton, both carded and combed, which was up 60 percent. Art silk and synthetic textiles were up 59.43 percent, yarn, other than cotton yarn, was up 45 percent, made-up products rose 18.8 percent, textile materials 36.6 percent, ready-to-wear garments 33 percent, knitwear 25 percent, and bedwear 16 percent.

An analysis based on the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) data indicates that during the first half of FY 2011 export earnings of textiles totalled $ 6.28 billion — a year-over-year (y-o-y) increase of 26 percent. It amounts to 57 percent share in overall exports of the country. The non-textile earnings in the same period were $ 4.7 billion, which works out to a y-o-y increase of 15 percent and forms 43 percent of overall exports of Pakistan.

Food exports, too, with a growth of 12.95 percent, contributed to the surge with an increase to $ 2.03 billion — up from $ 1.8 billion during the last fiscal. Fish and fish products surpassed the food group’s performance as its individual growth was 31 percent. Vegetables rose 33 percent to $ 68 million compared to $ 51 million. But fruits were down 5.09 percent to $ 149.6 million. Meat and meat products’ export rose 52.6 percent to $ 82.3 million, up from $ 54 million last year. Pakistan is also exporting wheat as it has a bumper crop this year. Wheat exports rose to $ 61.1 million, compared to just $ 560,000 in the same period last year.

The products that recorded a decline in exports include carpets and rugs — down 3.82 percent and limped to $ 76 million. Footwear was down 21.19 percent to $ 13 million.

The favourable export performance will help Pakistan narrow its trade deficit over the coming five months when fiscal 2011 will close on June 30. The government has declared the current fiscal as the “year of exports”.

Increase in prices of exported products, including textiles and rice, plus rising home remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis and inflow of the Coalition Support Funds to fight terrorism, have improved the current account (CA). It saw a $ 26 million surplus during the first half — July-December of FY 2011.

External balances can improve further by the end of FY 2011, if these factors stay favourable. But there are, already, growing pressure in the external sector with Africa and the Middle East in political turmoil. Some current indications have triggered fears of bigger problems ahead.

Remittances, for instance, continue to rise. The SBP, the central bank, reports that home remittances from overseas Pakistanis, including those from the UAE, GCC, US and UK rose to $ 6.118 billion in the first seven months — July-January — of the current FY 2011. This is an increase of 17.7 percent compared to the like period of FY 2010 when these were $ 5.198 billion.

The inflow of home remittances included UAE $ 1,437 million, Saudi Arabia $ 1,353 million, US $ 1,145 million, GCC — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman — $ 721 million, UK $ 669 million, and EU $ 195 million. Remittances from Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Japan and other countries rose to $ 595 million, compared to $ 509 million in the like period of FY 2010.

The inflow on account of exports, home remittances and other assistance have considerably improved the foreign exchange reserves, which are now at an all time high of $ 17.59 billion, the SBP says. The current account deficit at the end of the seven month period stands at $ 81 million — a major improvement over the deficit of $ 3.052 billion as at the end of the like period in FY 2010.

That holds a good promise for Pakistan’s foreign trading partners and investors. One hopes the current political troubles in some of Pakistani markets abroad ends soon; otherwise it can adversely affect our exports, home remittances, and FDI inflows.

The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and former Director General of APP

VIEW: Of religion and national pride —Yasser Latif Hamdani - Monday, February 28, 2011

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The world does not trust us anymore to hold international sporting events because our ‘free’ media and ‘independent’ judiciary have inadvertently laid bare the ugliness has that runs deep in our souls as a nation

As the cricket World Cup continues in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, one cannot but lament having missed the opportunity to watch a third World Cup in Pakistan. Those like me who watched the 1987 semi-final and 1996 final in Lahore and later an extraordinary India-Pakistan series in 2004 now watch with a heavy heart as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh display their beautiful cultures and countries while all the world knows about Pakistan is that it is an extremist haven where differences of opinion are settled through bullets, usually 27 or so, aimed at silencing all differing points of view.

Just as well though. After all, our main cricket stadium — which is home to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) headquarters — is not named after our founding fathers or national leaders (unlike in India and Bangladesh). Nor is it named after cricket stars like Imran Khan or Fazal Mahmood. No sir, thanks to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the much-touted ‘Islamic Summit Conference’, our main cricket stadium is named after Colonel Gaddafi, who, whatever his contributions to his country might have been ages ago, is today a tyrant and who has unleashed hell on his own people. Imagine our embarrassment if a World Cup game was to be played at Gaddafi Stadium, while Gaddafi ordered use of mercenary forces to crush the people of Benghazi.

The truth is that while Pakistan is as much culturally diverse and colourful as any of the other countries of the subcontinent, we would have never gotten the opportunity to display such diversity. The picture more likely to be transmitted as Pakistan’s culture would be that of Sunni Tehreek calling for death to Shias and non-Muslims. Already, the conservative government of Punjab, backed by a retrogressive right-wing judiciary, has cracked down on Basant and discontinued the Lahore Marathon — events that were poised to become a permanent feature on international calendars. The excuse for banning Basant is that it causes deaths since the government is incapable of ensuring that the dangerous use of metal wire is curbed. Fair enough, but I propose here and now to the geniuses in the Punjab government and our judiciary to kindly also ban inter alia cars, planes and high-rises. Cars ought to be banned because some drivers overspeed and that causes fatal accidents. Planes ought to be banned because, well, you never know when someone might fall off from behind the landing gear. High-rises ought to be banned because contractors often use substandard building materials and designs and these might collapse in the event of an earthquake. Brilliant logic Messrs Sharifs and company! And then people wonder why the world does not think much of us? There is, of course, never a dull moment in Pakistan, but I am not sure if people visiting Pakistan can always appreciate our indigenous forms of extreme entertainment.

Our very free media has perfected the art of national masochism. Case in point: a certain female TV anchor whose favourite pastime is reading out inciting fatwas on air. Having been fired from one channel for the high-pitched hogwash that she is known for, she now hosts the ‘flagship’ show for another channel. This was to be expected as her new employer is trying to bolster its reputation with the conspiracy theorists by promoting as a political analyst another conspiracy monger who thinks himself an Islamic Che Guevara gearing up for Ghazwa-e-Hind (war against India). Delusions of grandeur and a high pitched squeaky voice is all one needs to be taken seriously in our free media. Anyway, in a recent show, the aforesaid anchor insisted that singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan was mistreated and even incarcerated by the Indians after he was found to be carrying foreign exchange in excess of what the Indian laws allow. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan — the alleged victim of Indian nationalist bigotry — corrected her at least four times on the issue by saying that the Indians never arrested him nor did they mistreat him. Coming on the heels of the Veena Malik episode, the way our media has stoked this fire is indicative of a malaise that runs deep.

The short version is that the world does not trust us anymore to hold international sporting events because our ‘free’ media and ‘independent’ judiciary have inadvertently laid bare the ugliness has that runs deep in our souls as a nation. We are increasingly presented as a nation of extremists who are easily riled up in the name of false religious frenzy and national pride. What is more is that we have become victims of our own sick and perverted voyeurism that fuels our media and eggs on our judiciary.

Therefore, for many decades to come, the only tourists Pakistan is likely to receive are either those extremists looking for terrorist training in our Wild, Wild West or CIA contractors in hot pursuit. It is a shame because as a country we have a lot of positives to offer to the world. Instead, we are proud to live in the la-la land where the number of nukes not universities or schools determines our self worth. That too is to be expected because we declared to the world long ago that we would eat grass and make nuclear weapons. Of course it is always the poor and hapless masses that eat grass, never the ruling elite that proclaims such brave lies. In our country, the opium of religion and national pride is never in short supply.

The writer is a lawyer. He also blogs at and can be reached at

COMMENT: Politics of emotions —Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi - Monday, February 28, 2011

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Instead of allegiance to an ideology, most politicians pledge allegiance to the party patrons. This creates an environment in which key political decisions become tests of loyalty rather than a cold analysis of the facts to formulate available options

Politics is the art of inspiring people through manipulation of emotions to act on a vision. In established democracies, election campaigns are run on emotions while the government is run on rationale derived from tradition, laws and the constitution. That is probably the reason that elected leaders, who won in landslide victories, lose popular support within the first few years of their term because governance requires making hard choices. The emotional quotient forms a substantial part of Pakistani’s decision making process in all walks of life. Pakistani politicians understand this dynamic very well. They run election campaigns on feudal loyalties and alliances while governing through manipulation of public sentiments instead of focusing on tangible results.

In recent years the situation seems to be getting out of hand. The murderer of the Governor of Punjab, by appealing to religious emotions, is showered with rose petals and Valentine’s Day gifts — in the process mocking the rule of law on which a society maintains its moral authority. Even economic decisions are subjected to emotional arguments rather than factual analysis. Local politicians’ use of emotional tactics are being used when a foreigner killed two Pakistanis on the busy streets of Lahore. Instead of allowing the law to take its course to decide the fate of the accused, it has become an emotional drama on which all sides are seeking political benefit for their future election campaigns. The issue will be resolved one way or the other but any damage done to the national interest will take some time to recover. Pakistan is in a volatile region where it needs skilful diplomacy to ensure it has more friends around the world, especially among its neighbours and strategic allies.

The real question that we have to explore here is the basis for prevalence of high emotions in our society. It might be because of the interplay of three factors: the hierarchical structure of our society, low level of literacy and our outdated educational system. From our childhood we are taught to comply with the decisions of our elders without ever raising a question or seeking a logical explanation. A father or an elder brother, as a patriarch of the family, might well be insane in his decision making but the younger lot has to obey him, no questions asked. In villages many a family has been damaged by the wrong decisions of elders. Major decisions of our lives like choosing a discipline for higher education, marriage and jobs have to be approved by elders. This undermines a young person’s ability to have confidence in their independent decisions, which is an important step in gaining experience and maturity. In some cases, the consequences of a bad decision made by others are borne by the person who was not even consulted. We express the same command and follow behaviour in our professional lives where obedience to a superior’s orders is an important consideration for raises and promotions. This hierarchical structure has greatly undermined our ability to agree to disagree, which is an important ingredient for a democratic society where constant debate is held on national issues. Debating or reasoning are not equivalent to disrespect and should be encouraged.

Our school syllabus, for the primary and secondary levels, is filled with distortions of our history to provide us a false sense of pride. The language used is laden with words that are extreme in their expression rather than using diction that convey a neutral view. In our schools and colleges the emphasis is on memorising the content rather than have a discourse in the classrooms where concepts are fully explained and understood. Our examination system encourages reproduction of memorised content rather than encourage expressions of creativity, innovation and imagination. That might be the reason for our ability to copy or improvise ideas rather than create new ones.

Politicians and political parties are derived from within our society so they exhibit the same behaviour. An influential patron or feudal lord gains control of the party and the whole organisation has to subject itself to express loyalty and obedience to the wishes of that person. Instead of allegiance to an ideology, most politicians pledge allegiance to the party patrons. This creates an environment in which key political decisions become tests of loyalty rather than a cold analysis of the facts to formulate available options. Political speeches are loaded with emotionally charged words without shedding light on the solutions to the issues or inspiring people on a vision for future. A look at the sampling of speeches from all parties seems similar in content, language and ideology. Press briefings in response to terrorist attacks, accidents or natural calamities are an exhibition of the competent authority’s play on the emotions of the people by stating that severe punishment will be given to the culprits without providing a road map to apprehend those responsible.

A dynamic and progressive nation honours those that contribute to the advancement and well being of the community. ‘Shaheed’ and ‘Ghazi’ are the highest and most esteemed titles in a Muslim society. But even in bestowing these titles we are emotional and careless. A murderer who did not perform his duty of protection is entitled Ghazi, severely undermining the value of this sacred title. Similarly, the sudden death of a person killed in an accident or terrorist crime is termed as shaheed, putting him in the same league with a soldier who knowingly faced death to protect his nation. We exhibit the same behaviour in showering flattering titles on our political leaders whose abilities are at best average when assessed in the light of their past decisions. This erodes the inspirational value of rewards and becomes a disincentive for the younger generation to contribute to the nation with pride.

Emotions are an integral part of a person’s character and cannot be ignored. But in a civilised society it is important to keep emotions under check or they start tearing the social fabric apart. A segment of a local community in the US appealed to the emotions of the people through hate speech to stop construction of mosques in many American cities. But the majority of the people supported and city administrators granted the licenses for mosque construction as US law provides protection for the freedom of choice in religion. They did not allow emotions or let fear take control of their rational decision making according to the law. An open debate in the media is a positive step in allowing all voices to be heard to cool down emotions but we also need to re-evaluate our social and educational structure to develop a nation that appreciates emotions and allows prudence to prevail in making critical decisions.

The writer is Chairman Council of Past Presidents of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce-USA. He can be reached at

VIEW: Can our economy afford the Raymond jolt? —Dr Haider Shah - Monday, February 28, 2011

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In Pakistan, with an elitist economy where the tax-GDP ratio of nine percent is one of the lowest in the world, and where it shows avowed reluctance to rationalise its military ambitions, regular bailouts should not come as a surprise

The health indicators of the Pakistan economy have not been encouraging ever since signs of ill health became evident in 2007. Economic woes are, however, meshed with other socio-political problems of all sorts. On top of that, Pakistan has also been unlucky in experiencing both natural and man-made disasters. Now Pakistan’s economy is threatened with a tsunami of a different sort. While the country has hardly recovered from the mayhem after the tragic murder of Salmaan Taseer, Mr Raymond Davis suddenly appears in Lahore as a bolt from the blue. Legal and justice issues aside, the incident could not have occurred at a more inappropriate time. The conspiracy theorists might say that Pakistan is using Raymond Davis for increasing the stakes and thus be able to bargain for bigger economic and military aid from the US. Either way the repercussions of this incident do not augur well. Religious parties and the media are all set to milk this opportunity on Raymond’s release. If not released, the backlash from the US can be severe. We need to understand our economic situation well before engaging ourselves in the self-gratifying sport of jingoism.

Due to the international economic meltdown many countries, developing and developed, are in hot water. Pakistan is thus not the only country that is experiencing economic distress as rightly commented by Sayeeda Warsi, Chairperson of the ruling Conservative party in the UK during her recent visit to Pakistan. For instance, weaker economies of the Eurozone such as Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Greece are finding it difficult to balance their fiscal books. The beleaguered Greek government told its nation that it had to make a choice between ‘collapse or salvation’. The story of Ireland is also not much different. Swallowing its national pride, the country had to accept a $ 89.4 billion bailout loan with tough conditions attached.

When countries live beyond their means, sooner or later they need to be bailed out. In Pakistan, with an elitist economy where the tax-GDP ratio of nine percent is one of the lowest in the world, and where it shows avowed reluctance to rationalise its military ambitions, regular bailouts should not come as a surprise. As once Keynes stated, “In the long run we are all dead”, Pakistani economic policy managers have always remained preoccupied with short-term survival strategies. Right now, they are faced with a difficult task. The fiscal deficit, the gap between receipts and expenditure, remains high and consequently debt is piling up rapidly. Growth projections according to the recent State Bank forecast are low, i.e. 2-3 percent. The budget deficit is projected to be 6-6.5 percent as opposed to the original budget target of four percent. While exports are expected to grow, imports will offset any growth and thereby increase the current account deficit. The unemployment rate is shooting up and inflation is becoming feverish and is set to remain between 15-16 percent. Our economic policy managers have been relying too much on monetary measures to contain inflation but such measures are only effective in the short run and can be offset by other structural problems. Prior to the floods, there were some encouraging signs of recovery but the flood situation in summer last year again proved that Pakistan’s economy is too fragile and a single disaster can upset the whole applecart.

After Hillary Clinton, Saeeda Warsi is the second foreign dignitary that has publicly advised Pakistan to rationalise its economic policy. She says it with merit and conviction though. In the UK, the new coalition government has also taken tough measures to address the fiscal deficit left behind by the booming times of the New Labour government. The large scale spending cuts have not even spared the armed forces and together with scrapping of expensive projects, a large number of servicemen have also been laid off. Similarly, despite massive student protests, the tuition fees for university education were significantly increased. On the tax revenue side VAT rate was increased to 20 percent. Our government, on the other hand, has not yet found the courage to take difficult decisions. Instead, as a short term survival strategy, it approached the IMF in 2008 for a bail-out package. Like Greece and Ireland, Pakistan also had to make a pledge that it would live within its means. In December 2010, after dilly dallying, Pakistan was in no position to meet the IMF performance criteria and, therefore, requested a nine month extension of the standby arrangement. Pakistan essentially made four written pledges in that letter. One, it would implement RGST, two, it would achieve the budget deficit target of 4.7 percent, three, it would carry out extensive energy sector reforms and four, it would introduce essential reforms in the financial sector.

A successful reform policy needs both sincerity and continuation. The PML-N’s initiative of the 10-point agenda calling for lean, efficient and accountable government and the joint task force of government and opposition were steps in the right direction. As the 45 days ultimatum period given by the PML-N expired and the two major parties appear to be parting ways, there are renewed concerns that amid political brawls, the seriously ill economy will remain unattended. The saner elements in the opposition must realise that if they try to make some political capital out of the situation today, they will find the waters much hotter when they run the government tomorrow. Tough decisions cannot be indefinitely delayed, as in future they would become even more painful. No one can deny the importance of minimising corruption and making our taxation system more equitable. However, these calls should not be seen as an alternative but should rather be complementary to the task of increasing the tax revenue and documenting the economy with the help of a VAT-style sales tax system.

As if our problems were not already mammoth in size, now we have to deal with the Raymond Davis affair. One hopes that our decisions are not led by populist desires but by pragmatism and established international practices. The fallout of adventurist causes hits the sidelined poor of Pakistan more even though such causes are championed mostly by affluent ex-civil and military bureaucrats or heftily paid opinion-makers in the media.

The writer holds a doctorate in public policy management, teaches at Hertfordshire University, UK and is the founding member of the Rationalist Society of Pakistan

ANALYSIS: Drawing lines of partition —Sikander Amani - Monday, February 28, 2011

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The circumstances and the spirit of the Treaty of Tordesillas shed a light on the 1947 partition of South Asia. In both cases, we see the same claims of quasi-divine status in attributing lands, without any consultation with the people most affected by the attribution — the very inhabitants of the said regions

We have all read the (or at least one) story of partition. We have all read about how it came about — the Lahore Resolution, the growing tensions between the Muslim League and Congress, the instrumentalisation by both of their respective constituencies, the personal enmity between Jinnah and Nehru, especially after the failure of the Cabinet Mission Plan, the cowardice and outright partiality of the British, and in particular of their last Viceroy, Mountbatten. However one views the political considerations that led to the separation of the subcontinent into two states, it is difficult, in the light of its infinitely tragic toll, to see it as justified. It generated a displacement of an estimated 10 million people, the greatest migration in mankind’s history, the death of anything between one and three million people, the abduction and rape of countless women. The indignity of Great Britain, which in its “shameful flight” (Churchill) basically washed its hands of the whole affair, remains undiminished almost 70 years later.

One particularly galling aspect of the whole tragedy, albeit a less apparently bloody one, was the neat, surgically precise work of the Radcliff Boundary Commission, empowered in 1947 with drawing the line soon to separate the two countries. Sir Cyril Radcliff had been given a time limit of five weeks for the Commission to complete its work. As has often been noted, Radcliff handed in his work without once having set foot in the regions he was entrusted to dissect. His Commission worked with often outdated maps, obsolete census, and massive political pressure, including from the very pro-Indian Mountbatten. This stemmed from the fact that, while Muslim and Hindu majority was supposed to be the main factor in awarding the districts along the line, some “other factors” could be taken into consideration (a major argument for the Sikhs who argued for almost all of Punjab to be handed to India, on the basis that some of their most important places of worship would all end up in Pakistan — as they eventually did). What was surgically precise on paper turned out, as we know, into a butchered vivisection on land.

But the historical details of drawing the line are well known. It is, however, interesting to reflect on the representation of power it supposed. One man (well, five, but Cyril Radcliff later stated that the four other members were too partisan to be of any objective help) was entrusted with deciding what lands would go to whom; one man was empowered to decide from afar the exact future territory of two new states. The nature of the gesture — a single person whose “impartial”, rational mind, from a distance, was the supposed guarantee of the fairness of the deal, in a quasi-divine manner — is mind-numbing.

Long ago, another line was drawn with similar hubris: the Treaty of Tordesillas, in 1494. The Treaty of Tordesillas divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe — the “New World” — between Portugal and Spain, along a meridian in the Atlantic Ocean, some 2,000 km west of the Cape Verde islands. The lands to the east would belong to Portugal, and the lands to the west, to Spain. The Treaty was ratified by the representatives of the two crowns, Joao II, King of Portugal, and Isabella and Ferdinand, Queen and King of Spain. But the presiding power of the agreement was Pope Alexander VI. Indeed, in the medieval European conception of the universe, God had a Dominium Mundi, a universal jurisdiction over the whole world, founded on his act as Creator. As his worldly representative, the Pope had the authority to attribute new (hear: empty, or at least emptiable) lands, with the express purpose of Christianising them. The Pope was empowered by none other than God himself to decide sovereignties, territories, and religion. Quite a seal of legitimacy.

And so Pope Alexander VI drew the line. However divinely inspired, he too became subject to political pressure, and the line was modified to suit the disgruntled Portuguese, who felt they had been cheated in the attribution process: the line was thus moved westward, so that they could gain a foothold on what was to become the tip of Brazil. When it comes to plundering and looting continents, God’s word surely can be adjusted to ground realities.

The circumstances and the spirit of the Treaty of Tordesillas shed a light on the 1947 partition of South Asia. In both cases, we see the same claims of quasi-divine status in attributing lands, without any consultation with the people most affected by the attribution — the very inhabitants of the said regions. Radcliff (and the British more generally) and Pope Alexander VI truly thought they were in the best position to decide on the line separating new territories; Congress and the Muslim League, for all their cries of democratic principles and their often demagogic appeals to the people, never once envisaged a local referendum nor considered including the affectees’ voice in the decision-making and line-drawing process. In a way, partition supposed an omniscient, panoptical view of the earth similar to the old Christian notion of Dominium Mundi, with the added element of a modern, post-Westphalian element of territorialised power.

Perhaps partition turned out so tragically because it fundamentally rested on a combination of the worst of both medieval and modern conceptions of power and geography: the medieval inheritance of a land viewed almost as the private property of a superior power who is free to attribute, dispose of, or divide it, on the one hand, and the core of political modernity, with national sovereignty seen as inseparable from a very narrow understanding of territory, on the other. Modern nation-states consider territory as the foundation of power as well as a spatial container of an identity and a culture. Hence, in the case of partition, where identity was defined along one single parameter (Muslim/Hindu), the need for what in effect became an ethnic or religious cleansing of the newly acquired territories. Modern political power relies on its territorialisation, which both materialises authority and magically enforces it. The issue of boundaries has therefore been viewed as the most crucial question of political modernity. Borders are the concrete markers of our agency and of our citizenship — in effect, of our identity — which made Radcliff’s work even more explosive.

Radcliff’s pencil line on an old map of Punjab in the spring of 1947 changed the face of the subcontinent, and, in a way, of the world, just like his predecessor’s, Pope Alexander VI’s, did back in 1494. Its combination of hubris (as befits any colonial power) and modern territorialisation of power turned out to be the deadliest combination of all.

The writer is a freelance columnist and can be reached at

EDITROIAL: After the phone call - Monday, February 28, 2011

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If the reports on the issue are critically scrutinised, it looks like a staring down contest between the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and the US has begun. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chiefs, Leon Panetta and General Ahmad Shuja Pasha have spoken on the phone and the ISI has asked that information be given to it about all CIA operatives in Pakistan. It seems that the Raymond Davis affair has given way to something bigger, more substantial, and more beneficial for the security agencies of Pakistan.

The intelligence agencies of Pakistan have a few ideas of their own that they may feel might just get sorted out by the debacle that is the Raymond Davis fiasco. It is no secret that the US has persistently pressurised Pakistan for some time to relax its visa-processing regime for its citizens. Reports in the media have asserted that this request was acceded to by the government without proper security clearance and that visas were issued en masse starting from July last year. The reports imply that the security and intelligence agencies were bypassed for this purpose. If for the sake of argument (although US complaints of delayed visas have not abated) the assertion is accepted, it implies that either the security and intelligence agencies failed to insist on proper clearance or the government was able to circumvent well laid down and long established procedures for the purpose. Both arguments seem incredible as they imply a breakdown in government procedures, an assertion for which there is no proof except the (seemingly motivated) reports in the less responsible sections of our media. So what is the truth?

Our intelligence and security agencies are known to be less than well pleased with the efforts of the civilian democratically elected government to forge ties between the US and Pakistan that rely more on the political government rather than the older Musharraf-era conduit of the intelligence and security agencies. For the latter, the villain of the piece is our Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who has been accused of responsibility for ‘unleashing’ the Raymond Davis brigade inside Pakistan. Now while this, and his alleged responsibility for the critical sections of the Kerry-Lugar Act regarding civil-military relations may be enough to earn him the ire of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies, it exaggerates the role of the Ambassador and depreciates the way the US’s system works. It is very difficult to believe that anything manages to escape the careful watch of our intelligence agencies. Even if the civilian government has expedited visa issuance for US citizens (although the evidence does not support this contention), there is hardly a chance that these visas are granted without some measure of scrutiny by the establishment. However, it may be that this scrutiny has not been up to par, partly because the US and the CIA’s covert operatives had better covers than our spooks could detect. If this is so, it is hugely embarrassing for our redoubtable agencies. The Raymond Davis affair may just have handed Pakistan’s security agencies a convenient leverage to roll back any suggestion of a ‘liberalised’ visa regime and wrest complete control of it from the civilian government.

Davis may have sent the relationship between the two countries spiralling to new lows but the fact remains that there is a bigger picture at hand. While the whole affair may have given our security agencies more leverage to demand details of CIA operatives working within Pakistan, it may also have given them a bargaining chip in the greater game. It is well known that differences exist between Pakistan and the US, and the intelligence agencies of both, on the war on terror and the fact that Pakistan has given safe havens to the Afghan Taliban, its proxies for the approaching endgame in Afghanistan. This has restricted the civilian government’s say and leg-room to manoeuvre. The Raymond Davis saga may just provide the security agencies of Pakistan with enough sway to ensure that, after the looming US withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014, Pakistan has its finger in the proverbial pie with its Afghan Taliban proxies sitting comfortably at the Afghan table. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Balochistan: waiting for justice

Balochistan High Court Bar Association President Hadi Shakeel’s petition in the Supreme Court (SC) under Article 184(3) of the constitution, making the federal government and nine others respondents, has yielded some results. The apex court has directed the Attorney General of Pakistan, Maulvi Anwarul Haq, to meet Prime Minister Gilani and apprise him of the security situation in Balochistan and the concerns of the Baloch people. It is indeed a welcome step that the apex court has taken renewed notice of the kidnappings and targeted killings in Balochistan. The SC also directed an ISI official to ask the director general (DG) of the ISI to take up this issue with the prime minister. The Balochistan chief secretary, inspector general of police, DG Military Intelligence (MI), inspector general Frontier Constabulary and DG Levies have also been summoned by the SC. By directing the prime minister and DG ISI to discuss the issue and summoning other high-ups, the apex court has signalled that it is taking a deep interest in the woes of the Baloch people. On Saturday, lawyers staged a protest demonstration in front of the Quetta Press Club, condemning the abductions of four lawyers. They have vowed to hold demonstrations every day until their colleagues are recovered.

Pakistan’s security establishment has dealt with Balochistan in a very heavy-handed manner. The largest province of Pakistan has seen little development over the last six decades. Lack of education, infrastructure and political power has alienated the Baloch from the rest of the country, particularly Punjab, which they see as their ‘enemy’. The recent policy of eliminating moderate nationalists, who are in open national politics, is a dangerous trend. Thousands of Baloch have disappeared under mysterious circumstances or have been picked up by unknown elements. They are not only tortured but many of them are killed brutally and their bodies are later found from different parts of Balochistan. This policy adopted by our security establishment is leading to an increase in separatist sentiment among the Baloch.

It is no secret that neither the federal government nor the provincial government has any real say when it comes to Balochistan. The real power lies with our security establishment, which has a narrow and non-political repressive policy. It is time that they understand that force, repression and killing cannot resolve this issue. A political solution is needed and for that the democratic government needs to run the show. The Baloch have been waiting for justice for decades now. It is time to address their grievances. *

Who watches the watchmen? - Hajrah Mumtaz - Monday, February 28, 2011

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DURING the past couple of months, particularly in the wake of controversy over the proposal to bring the blasphemy laws under review, there has been much discussion over the airwaves about religious dictates.

The proposal, which never even made it to the stage of being tabled before parliament, has been dropped by a government that appears to be perennially on the back foot — the ways of government are often strange to behold. What concerns me, though, is that while the discussion of religion continues, an accusation is being made with increasing incidence in various columns and blogspots.

A number of writers have pointed to certain guests on different talk shows, claiming that the citations (mainly from religious sources) that these guests presented in favour of their argument were taken out of context, their meaning was altered by omitting to mention context, or were plain incorrect.

In many cases, those levelling this criticism have attached transcripts of or uploaded clips from the television programme in question, so that readers can themselves look up the original text to check whether the accusation is justified. I found it worrying enough to undertake this exercise. And in all the cases I checked, the accusation was justified.

Be that as it may, it is hardly unknown, anywhere in the world, for personalities of standing and power, particularly those of a stature to be invited on televised talk shows, to resort to glossing over facts to suit their ends, or to twist facts to their desired end.

What I find particularly worrying, however, is the role of our programme hosts who, in most such cases, evidently had neither the knowledge to pick up on altered ‘facts’ nor, perhaps, the gumption to point them out. In most cases, while X guest made Y announcement that, upon investigation, turned out to be incorrect, the host was merely sitting there nodding his or her head in agreement,.

Which leads us to the question, what good is the much-mentioned power of the fourth estate — the media — if it fails to pick up on shady statements pronounced by the people it claims to be bringing under review? The media’s ability to bring contradictions and inconsistencies to light is, after all, one of the prime sources from which it claims its power.

This is what allows the media to act as an entity that imposes checks and forces balance upon opinion-makers and the otherwise powerful. If anyone can get away with any sort of story, and the host can’t tell the difference or won’t, then what is the point of all these supposedly erudite programmes? Who watches the watchmen?

As I said earlier, everywhere in the world, people expect politicians and other powerful people to talk according to their agendas, and this often involves twisting and glossing over facts. They ought not resort to this, of course, but that seems to be the nature of the beast and people have come to accept it. Guests on television, similarly, are in many cases there to express their opinions — and sometimes those opinions are not or not entirely factual.

For these reasons, the abilities of the programme host are of crucial importance. Viewers look to the host to be able to spot the erroneous statement, the inconsistency, the prevarication or the U-turn — and this requires the host to have serious levels of knowledge about the topic under discussion.

This is where the value of a professional programme host lies, for only then can he or she meaningfully explore the subject. If the host has little knowledge about the subject, then really, it may as well be you or I, a layperson, sitting there asking the questions.

The argument could be made that every host is not expected to — simply cannot — have knowledge about all things under the sun to a sufficient degree that allows him or her to be able to challenge the experts. True. But the answer is, this is precisely why different hosts specialise in different areas.

In countries where the media industry is a little more professional, a host who specialises in current affairs and politics will rarely, if ever, host a debate on Catholicism or the relevance of religion in everyday affairs — unless the two spheres have overlapped, in which case considerable research is undertaken. There are specialists in for the environment, for public policy and governance, international affairs, economics and business, culture and the arts, and so on.

Most of the developed world has grown beyond the sort of jack-of-all-trades hosts that are the norm in Pakistan. I gave the example of debate over religious matter in the beginning of this column, but as television viewers are well aware, this is far from the only area where topics outside the purview of the hosts are taken up.

It is tempting to blame the hosts themselves, and to be sure they must shoulder at least part of the responsibility for this sorry situation — the lack of research, for one. But the real problem is systemic, and has to do with the way and the speed with which the televised media industry developed.

Media organisations hired talk show hosts, many of whom became celebrities and most of whom are paid salaries in accordance with this status. If you’re paying an employee such large sums, there is obviously the expectation that (s)he will handle whatever topic is given.

Yet a more constructive model may be to employ a greater number of specialists. The pie might have to be divided into smaller slices, but organisations as well as their audiences would benefit. A crime reporter is not expected to also be writing theatre reviews or political commentary; such expectations ought not be thrust on, or appropriated by, television personalities either.

The writer is a member of staff.

The more serious issue - Huma Yusuf - Monday, February 28, 2011

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AS I write this, the wheels are in motion to resolve the Raymond Davis impasse. Ambassador Hussain Haqqani has met US special envoy Marc Grossman in Washington; Gen Kayani has met Adm Mike Mullen in Oman. No doubt, US and Pakistani government officials are thrashing out the details of a mutually palatable resolution to the diplomatic fiasco.

For the first time in weeks, the conversation among Pakistan observers in Washington does not revolve around Davis. Instead, it focuses on a new US Senate Foreign Relations Committee report about the impact of water scarcity on regional stability in South Asia. The juxtaposition of these two issues — Davis and dams — should give Pakistanis pause to think.

The lesson from the Davis affair — no matter how it concludes — is that realpolitik will triumph over petty politics. By the latter, I am referring to the manner in which our diplomacy has been conducted over the past month, not its validity, nor the merits and demerits of its outcome. Certainly, the Davis case has raised extremely serious issues about US-Pakistan relations: US ground presence within our borders, intelligence-sharing protocols, inter-ministry and inter-agency transparency and more. These must be investigated and addressed in a prompt manner. But the Pakistani establishment’s handling of the case also deserves scrutiny.

As Davis’s incarceration presented more complications, the authorities created an echo chamber of anti-Americanism as a political strategy of bilateral engagement. The national media — rather than diplomatic cables — was used to transmit messages between the concerned governments. Pakistan’s intelligence agencies allegedly leaked reports to both local and international media outlets in order to air grievances with the CIA.

For their part, senior Pakistani politicians used the media to highlight disagreements with each other, their political parties and the US government. All the while, journalists enjoyed free rein to demonise Davis and disseminate the wildest conspiracy theories about the particulars of his case.

In short, Pakistan took its strategy of using public opinion as a tool of foreign relations a few steps too far.

But populism and emotionalism are the tricks of amateur politics. As one senior Pakistani government official put it, politicians may think they are playing to the gallery to win approval, but they are inadvertently creating galleries with divergent interests and expectations. The Davis case drives home this point: although the Pakistan government and military remain willing to engage with the US, the public has been hardened against the notion of a strategic partnership — and that’s putting it mildly. The takeaway here is that sensationalism cannot substitute for statecraft.

And this brings us to the second issue of water scarcity and security. If the reliance on manipulated and mediated politics is a reflection of our civilian officials’ capacity for handling sensitive, high-stakes foreign policy predicaments, then we’re in real trouble. The fact is, the presence of Raymond Davises in Pakistan (if indeed they exist in significant number) poses far less a threat to the country — its integrity, sovereignty, and prosperity — than the very real problem of water scarcity.

Pakistan is estimated to be a water-scarce country by 2025, with only 1,000 per capita cubic metres of internal renewable water (down from 2,961 cubic metres in 2000). The current water table is falling by more than two metres per year. Almost 97 per cent of all withdrawals from the Indus waters are for agricultural irrigation purposes. That means water scarcity will quickly translate into food insecurity — a terrifying prospect in a nation where 77 million are already going hungry and 45 million are chronically malnourished. The Pakistan Army has already expressed concerns about water scarcity, pointing to a future in which access to water is seen as a benchmark of national security.

Many of the solutions to Pakistan’s water problems are internal, involving improved irrigation infrastructure, efficiency and management. But as our Foreign Office was quick to point out, the US Senate report also confirms Pakistan’s concerns about India’s ability to limit water supply to Pakistan in the future. In theory, the report suggests, India could use the cumulative capacity of 33 projects — currently at various stages of development — to Pakistan’s detriment.

Given the trans-border dimensions of Pakistan’s water problems, our politicians must be open to discussion, compromise and agreements. The needs of the hour are collaborative projects such as joint river basin analysis, glacial monitoring, monsoon prediction and agriculture policy reform. The Indus Water Treaty may need to be revisited in light of climate change, glacial melt, evolving energy needs and demographic booms in both Pakistan and India. Productive engagement on these issues and initiatives, the report emphasises, could be a basis for peace and cooperation rather than conflict.

If the Davis case is anything to go by, however, our establishment may choose to handle water tensions through a vilification campaign. A precedent for this has already been set: in the wake of the 2010 flooding, Pakistanis accused India of releasing excess water into the Chenab River to exacerbate the inundation. Conversely and perversely, Pakistan has previously complained that India has hoarded water. As climate change causes more erratic water levels in coming years, can we expect more heated rhetoric, leaked statements, and pointed fingers?

If the Pakistani authorities are truly investing in promoting and securing the national interest, they will have to develop a culture of mature politics. Rather than game-playing, they will have to assemble a diplomatic toolbox that can facilitate game-changing. It will take more than hysteria, media savvy and personalised attacks to successfully engage in international diplomacy, especially on issues as primal as water supply. Ultimately, if Pakistan hopes to achieve its foreign policy objectives, its politicians will have to promote an appreciation for realpolitik rather than reality TV among constituents.

The writer is the Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, D.C.

Editorial : Redefinition needed - Monday, February 28, 2011

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SPY agencies by definition would prefer to work in the dark, away from public scrutiny. So it is perhaps a sign of the level of frustration and suspicion between the ISI and the CIA that the two agencies have taken to public slanging against one another, through suitable media intermediaries of course. Amid the welter of accusations and recriminations, it is difficult to say with any certainty who is telling the truth and who isn’t. But zooming out from the minutiae seemingly preoccupying both sides at the moment, two observations can be made._One, the veil of secrecy surrounding Pak-American ties when it comes to counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency cooperation needs to be reconsidered. Next to nothing is known about the level of cooperation Pakistan extends to the US, and vice versa, and in what areas. Hundreds of drone-fired missiles have rained down in Fata, particularly the Wazirstan agencies, but the CIA-led programme is still virtually ‘officially denied’. The convenient arrangement allows the Pakistan government and the security establishment to allow a covert war on its soil while letting politics and public sentiment undermine that very war. The public is not even told about the resources, including bases, which are allegedly made available to the Americans. Even on more straightforward matters, little is clear. Pakistan is a transport route for a great deal of supplies to Isaf/ American forces, but what the agreements permit and what they prohibit is not declared. The only time Pakistanis are reminded of their state’s assistance to the foreign forces in Afghanistan is when tankers and other supply trucks are attacked in Pakistan. The veil of secrecy thrown over Pak-US relations by Gen Musharraf needs to be pulled back. It has periodically damaged relations between the US and Pakistan for a decade and over the past couple of years also appears to be impacting relations between the civilian government and the security establishment. Two, if Pakistan’s role in perpetuating the duality of overt suspicion and covert cooperation is one half of the problem, the other half is the Americans approach. There is a divergence of interests between the two countries. Instead of working patiently to build trust and bridge divides, the US often resorts to cage rattling and self-defeating arrogant tactics. Strategically, the uncertainty surrounding the bottom lines and ‘end state’ in Afghanistan that the US desires also makes it difficult to work towards a common agenda which keeps Pakistan’s legitimate self-interests in mind. Instead of threatening and undermining each other’s self-interests, the US and Pakistan should work towards finding common ground.

When will we look their way? - Sana Bucha - Sunday, February 27, 2011

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Riding a motorbike one fine afternoon in Lahore, on January 27, 22-year-old Faizan Haider and 26-year-old Faheem Shamshad breathed their last. Ten bullets fired from a 9mm Glock pistol handed them their death warrant.

Nothing could have prevented all that broke loose in the aftermath. Kudos to Lahore police – for once on time – a Raymond Davis was handcuffed and taken into custody. It had to be the colour of his skin because almost everyone at Qurtaba Chowk saw him commit the crime. There were 47 witnesses – a rare commodity in Pakistan. Flashback to the Shershah Market episode in Karachi: nine self-professed suspects, not a single willing eyewitness.

The same day Davis was whisked away by police officials – amid much television fanfare – two lifeless bodies were found in the Panjgor area of Balochistan. One of the victims, Abid Rasool Baksh was only 17 years old, the other, Nasir Dagarzai, 18. They were reportedly kidnapped from an internet cafe in Hub.

The next morning, Pakistanis woke up with anti-US fever. Some very influential groups got out on the streets of Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad – across Pakistan – to burn effigies of the ‘tyrant’, and scream their lungs out against American atrocities. By the third day, it was justice they were crying for; by the fourth, there was a call for barter with the US – Afia do, Raymond lo!

Meanwhile, in London, a relatively small number of people started gathering in Aldwych, braving the cold winter morning. In a calm but forceful protest, these people stood against the senseless killings in Balochistan. Back in Pakistan, we continued to ignite a self-proclaimed war against the US; slogans were pasted across Lahore reading: “Justice for Faheem and Faizan! Hang Davis! Amreeka murdahbad!” With love, Jamat-u-Dawah.

Worldwide, media publications gave out one distress signal after another concerning Balochistan, while the Pakistani media only picked up international stories mentioning Davis. When it was discovered that some US newspapers deliberately held back the true identity of Davis, our journalistic ethics were rocked to the core. Meanwhile, outside the Karachi Press Club, a makeshift shrine full of haunting pictures of missing persons started to house protesters crying out for attention on Balochistan. But the media ignored Balochistan. Ethics anyone?

Contrary to what we may or may not report, atrocities in Balochistan continue. And not a single protest has been recorded for those being shot and dumped for unknown reasons, by faceless, nameless killers. Come February 1 and most of us were mulling over Davis’ diplomatic status. In Balochistan, more bodies were being found. Baluch singer, Ali Jan Issazai, who was allegedly picked up by agencies from a hotel in Quetta a month earlier, was found dead in Khuzdar. Not a whimper from those frothing at the mouth with hatred for Davis. Two days later, three more bodies were found in Khuzdar. The victims were identified as Hamid Issazai, Lal Khan Sumalani and Mir Khan Sumalani. We were still too caught up in the Davis saga to notice.

Support grew for Faheem, Faizan and Ubaid-ur-Rehman, with everyone - from the federal and the Punjab government to television anchors and religious parties – vying for justice. Meanwhile, in Balochistan, children of a lesser God were buried with torture marks and bullet wounds. In most cases, the bodies were not even sent for an autopsy; no FIR was registered and no challan was issued. The trend of young boys being picked up is common in most parts of Balochistan. One such instance dates back to October last year. Seventeen-year-old Jamal Baluch was picked up by unknown men only to be recovered a few days later – fortunately, not dead but paralysed and unable to remember even his own name.

Jamal and many others mysteriously disappear only to be found as lifeless bodies bearing torture marks or disfigured with bullets, dumped in some levies-controlled area of the province. According to Amnesty International, at least 90 Baloch activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers have either disappeared or been murdered in the last four months in Balochistan. Amnesty International says at least 90 Baloch activists, teachers, journalists and lawyers have either disappeared or been murdered in the last four months in Balochistan. it claims most victims were abducted in the presence of others. But unlike those available to testify against Davis, the ‘others’ in this scenario keep a low profile. Justice may come easy in Lahore. And witnesses too. Not in Balochistan.

In the idle banter that ensues Interior Minister Rehman Malik, smells a rat in Afghanistan. Federal Minister Raza Rabbani admits that the Balochistan situation is ‘unfortunately out of control,’ however, he asserts that agencies have no role in the kidnappings. The agencies echo the same stance in the Supreme Court. More than eight thousand Balochis have gone missing since 2000. Odd. Families of victims are twice damned. They are not provided with any information regarding their loved ones and if they highlight their plight, they are threatened with dire consequences.

So, who holds the key to correct information? I believe the truth lies with the same people who have the answers on Davis, Faheem and Faizan. And I don’t mean The Washington Post. Is the Balochistan crisis the effect of a proxy war between the US and China? Or is it the Russian menace? Or the Taliban? Or India? For those who believe proxy wars are the real cause, it’s time to look in the mirror and try to recognise the faces of those who started this trend in the region. In the past, Baloch separatists were the enemy, now moderate Baloch nationalists are the target.

The discovery of two mutilated bodies belonging to members of the Baloch National Movement and Baloch Republican Party have once again, agitated the muffled Baloch voice that is divided over complete independence from Pakistan and more political autonomy and some control over its resources within the existing structure.

If Pakistani media, its religious right, and security establishment-backed analysts feel a moral obligation towards highlighting the atrocities committed by one American in Lahore, why are they silent when it comes to the Balochistan crisis? Are Baloch not Pakistani or Muslim enough to warrant attention? Baloch families are the sole protestors recording an outstanding 205 days of hunger strike. How many more days will it take for us - media, civil society, and sloganeering crowds – to look their way?

The writer works for Geo TV.

Capital suggestion - Dr Farrukh Saleem - Sunday, February 27, 2011

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In Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen primary drivers behind the uprising are inflation and unemployment for the masses coupled with corruption of the elite. In Bahrain and Libya primary drivers are more political-civil liberties and political rights-than economic.

To be certain, the one common thread among Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya is youth unemployment; the 15 to 24-year old segment of the population that is able and willing to work but is somehow unable to find employment. Egypt’s youth unemployment, at 43 per cent, is the highest in the Arab world. Tunisia at 30 per cent is not that far behind and, surprisingly, youth unemployment in the more prosperous Bahrain is still a painful 20 per cent.

Is Pakistan ripe for a revolution? To be sure, Pakistan’s record on political rights and civil liberties is much, much superior than enjoyed by the citizens of Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. From within the group, Libya is the worst offender with Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain not too far behind (Freedom House;

As far as corruption becoming a driver to an uprising, Libya (146/178), Yemen (146/178) and Pakistan (143/178)-being among the most corrupt-are all in the same league (Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index;

Summing it up, Pakistan has a democratically elected government; Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya do not. Pakistan has a vibrant, harshly critical, open media; Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya do not. Ben Ali ruled for 23 years, Mubarak for 30 years and Qaddafi for 41 years; Zardari assumed office on 9 September 2008. What that means is that Pakistanis do not have political drivers that would bring them out on to the streets.

Are there economic drivers that can cause an uprising in Pakistanis? Well, the rate of inflation in Pakistan is higher than in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Libya. Can poverty become a driver to an uprising? From within the group, 47 per cent of Yemen’s population lives at or below $2 a day. Poverty in Pakistan, on the other hand, is dangerously high where at least 60 per cent of the population earns $2 a day or less.

Can the high rate of youth unemployment cause an uprising in Pakistan? Well, the median age in Pakistan, at 21, is lower than in Egypt (24), Tunisia (30), Libya (24) and Bahrain (30). What that means is that Pakistan has more young people (as a percentage of population) than countries that are going through massive uprisings on the streets. I was unable to locate multiple sources confirming the exact rate of youth unemployment in Pakistan but there is hard evidence that youth unemployment in Pakistan has gone through the roof over the past three years.

All said and done, my focus remains on youth unemployment (that being the common thread behind the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya). All said and done, it is youth unemployment that brought down Ben Ali as well as Hosni Mubarak.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: