Editorial : MFN status for India - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/mfn-status-for-india.html

PAKISTAN has expressed its intention to extend the Most Favoured Nation status to India. At the end of a Pakistan-India meeting in Bhurban, Pakistan’s commerce secretary “assured” the Indians of the coveted tag by October this year. There appears to be no mention of an Indian wish for a transit route to Afghanistan and beyond, and Pakistan says it did not raise the issue of Indian opposition to the EU decision to provide duty-free access to Pakistani goods. This brings out the truly bilateral nature of the two-day talks. The details say Islamabad has conditioned the grant of the preferential treaty on the removal of non-tariff barriers by India. Secretary Zafar Mahmood said on Thursday that Pakistani businessmen are not opposed to the grant of the MFN status, that, indeed, they desired it to be conferred on India. We will learn more between now and October as the matter trickles down from the cool Bhurbhan clime to the plains where sentiments are easily hurt and the mere notion of a ‘favour’ to India can raise eyebrows. Politics may soon mix with trade, and Kashmir, which is much more than a political issue and involves human rights, will interfere.
Those who have followed Pakistan-India contacts have often been frustrated by situations resulting from the resort to ready terminology. In search of a relationship between the two countries, they would have preferred innovation. The MFN status has a tendency to draw extreme reactions worldwide. There is no bigger example of such emotions than the Sino-American case. China got the much desired preferential treatment from the US, to the chagrin of American manufacturers who demanded a level playing field. But then it appears that commerce experts the world over cannot do without landmarks.
Thus the MFN status is the milestone the current Pakistani and Indian negotiators are looking for right now, and they will claim they have earned it through assiduous work and breaking old taboos. The two countries have taken a long time to have an earnest discussion on trading items such as electricity and petroleum products. They promise to do so in the coming months. Advancing to the MFN stage may, to an extent, depend on the progress made in these areas which have a special significance for Pakistan. Pakistanis will also be keeping a close eye on how many non-tariff barriers India can remove. An official count in 2007 suggested that there were 27 such barriers, including an Indian reluctance to give visas to Pakistani businessmen. To end suspicions and for building confidence among businessmen these halters must go.

Editorial : Middle East concerns - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/middle-east-concerns.html

A REPORT concerning Pakistan’s position vis-à-vis the turmoil in the Gulf and another about Turkey’s reform proposals to Syria highlight the challenges facing Muslim countries in the neighbourhood of the Arab world. The tension, if not confrontation, between Iran and the Gulf sheikhdoms over Bahrain presents Pakistan with a ticklish question. Given its geographical location, and the people’s sentiments towards the peoples of the Middle East, Pakistan has vital stakes in peace in the region to its west. Its ties of religion and culture with the Arab and Iranian peoples have roots in history and have always managed to survive transient crises and tumult. For that reason, Pakistan should refrain from allying itself with one country against another. It should adopt a principled approach when it comes to the violation of people’s rights, and keep in view both the sentiments of its citizens and its long-term national interests.
In the Levant, the intensity of the uprising against the four-decade old Assad dynasty has attracted the attention of Turkey, which is reported to have come up with proposals to calm the situation in Syria. At the same time, Qatar’s foreign minister has urged Damascus to undertake a constructive dialogue with the dissidents to defuse the crisis. Turkey, which has of late been playing a more assertive role in Middle Eastern affairs, has reportedly suggested to the Syrian regime a three-step reform plan, with the focus on increasing the effectiveness of public services, a transparent economy and the
need for security forces to exercise greater restraint while tackling the protests. While the concerns of the Arab world’s friends can well be understood, basically it is for the Arab monarchs and strongmen to realise the gravity of the situation and step back from the precipice to let their people taste freedom. Like the rulers in Yemen and Libya, President Assad, too, has no choice but to concede to the protesters’ demands; otherwise the consequences for him and for his country could be grave. Let him prove wrong those who predict that Syria, too, could have a devastating civil war like the ongoing one in Libya.

Editorial : Series win in the Windies - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/series-win-in-the-windies.html

A NEW-LOOK Pakistan cricket team has prevailed over a strangely depleted West Indies side despite some hiccups in the third one-day international. Why the West Indies have chosen to drop seasoned performers like Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan from the squad remains a mystery, especially given their questionable bench strength. Similarly, Pakistan are without players like Younis Khan and Abdul Razzak who, some argue, are no longer suited to the rigours of limited overs cricket. Pakistan’s premier fast bowler Umar Gul is also being rested for the one-dayers. True, the opposition can be considered weak but the fact remains that a crop of youngsters stepped up to the plate and delivered at a time when this country can do with all the feel-good stories that can possibly come its way.
Pakistan’s lot in international cricket is not enviable. The team cannot play any games at home because of security concerns and it has also been rocked by corruption scandals leading to lengthy suspensions of three key players. Yet the team managed to reach the semi-finals of the cricket World Cup beating the likes of formidable opponents such as Sri Lanka and Australia. Now it has managed to secure a one-day series win in the Caribbean, which again is no mean achievement for a young side. Full marks ought to be awarded to the selectors for showing faith in young blood, and also to captain Shahid Afridi whose dynamic leadership seems to have revitalised the team. Many are now expecting a 5-0 clean sweep in the one-dayers. That may or may not happen, but nothing can detract from the fact that the side fought a good fight and clinched the series without some of the big names in the game. This Pakistan side appears to be going places and should be applauded.

A hunger for justice - Irfan Husain - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/a-hunger-for-justice.html

OVER the years, I have often wondered how some judges arrived at the decisions they have around the world, and not just in Pakistan. Some have been so bizarre that I suspected that factors other than the purely legal must have been at work.

Now, The Economist has supplied me with a possible answer. In the ‘Science and Technology’ section of its April 16 edition, the magazine cites an article from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that suggests that hunger might play a strong role in determining how judicial decisions are reached.
The paper describes how Shai Danziger of Ben-Gurion University and his colleagues analysed 1,000 cases of parole applications heard by eight judges over 10 months. The team found that at the start of the day, nearly two-thirds of the applications were approved, but this number fell to nearly zero with the passage of time. However, after the lunch break, the number of approvals returned to their earlier high level.
The Economist explains this anomaly thus: “The researchers offer two hypotheses for this rise in grumpiness. One is that blood sugar is the crucial variable…” The second theory is that “decision making is mentally taxing and that, if forced to keep deciding things, people get tired and start looking for easy answers. In this case, the easy answer is to maintain the status quo by denying the prisoner’s request.”
According to this research, justice is not only blind, but very often, hungry. I am not suggesting for a moment that Pakistani judges are as prone to hunger pangs as their Israeli counterparts. Had this been the case, I would be very reluctant indeed to be summoned before a judge during Ramazan.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Lahore High Court’s judgment in the Mukhtar Mai case, the Internet has been humming with anger, anguish and despair. Hundreds of decent Pakistanis have voiced their bewilderment over this perceived wrong done to a brave woman who has already suffered so much.
Sadly, these are the same people who came out so strongly in the movement to restore the chief justice in 2007, and to establish the independence of the judiciary. Over the past three years, many have become disillusioned by what they see as a failure of the legal system to live up to their high expectations.
The facts of the case are too well known to repeat here. Suffice it to say that for Mukhtar Mai, the nightmare that began with her gang rape in June, 2002, is still continuing. After a lower court found 10 of the accused guilty, and sentenced six to death two months later, the Lahore High Court reversed the sentence and acquitted five of them in 2005. Only one of them was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
After the uproar over the high court judgment, the Supreme Court took suo motu notice and decided to hear the appeal. Now, six years later, a three-member bench has upheld the Lahore court’s verdict and released all the accused but one. Naturally, the rape victim has expressed her fear of what these powerful men will do on their triumphant return to her village.
In the nine years since the crime, Mukhtar Mai has devoted herself to making life a little better for the marginalised women of her area. She has opened schools and a vocational centre, and her work has been internationally recognised, and she has been honoured for her courage across the world.
The fact that many of our reactionary TV anchors have commented so negatively on Mukhtar Mai’s trials and tribulations has enraged Pakistan’s liberals. In a searing open letter to Mubashir Lucman, a well-known TV anchor, Sana Saleem blogs on this newspaper’s website:
“Mai dared to stand up for herself and her family despite hailing from a rural background where influential tribesmen literally own the life and wealth of those they consider inferior to them. She spoke up in a society where reporting a rape case is an ordeal in itself and blaming the victim reinforces the culture of silence and shame.
“… This was no ordinary woman, Mr Lucman. She was gang-raped on the orders of a jirga, paraded naked around the entire village and then made to wait for nine long years — only to be turned down…
“Moreover you had the audacity to ask Mai if she felt any compassion for the men who were charged with rape… Do you expect her to sympathise with the men she accused of raping her? The entire discussion on the show was a vicious attack not only on Mai, a rape survivor, but women rights activists as well. Accusing activists of pocketing money … and cashing in on rape reflects your views on rape victims.
“It is people like you and attitudes such as yours that feed the vicious cycle of prejudice against rape victims … It is appalling that you would allow your guests to hurl allegations on Mai, call her rape fictitious without any substantial evidence…”
Sana Saleem has attached a link to the TV programme in question, and I must say I found it stomach-churning. Indeed, Lucman and his talk-show guests reflect the views of the majority of our misogynist nation. While president some years ago, Musharraf was asked about the Mukhtar Mai case while on one of his many overseas trips. To the best of my recollection, he advised the victim not to air the country’s dirty linen in public as it tarnished Pakistan’s image abroad. He also suggested that in his experience, some women got raped in order to gain asylum in the West.
The reality is that in our backward society, Musharraf and Lucman represent the mainstream in whose view, if women stay at home, they would be safe. All too often, they blame rape victims and draw attention to their dress, or the fact that they work outside their homes. But Mukhtar Mai dresses as conservatively as any villager, and was dragged out of her house.
Our police, our courts and our media all share the inherent prejudices against women that are rampant in our society. Until the guilty are given deterrent punishments, rape victims will continue to suffer long after their ordeal. Perhaps the review petition lodged by Aitzaz Ahsan before the Supreme Court could be heard soon after breakfast or lunch.…


Hope for better ties By Shada Islam - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/hope-for-better-ties.html

THE European Union’s outreach to Asia has traditionally had a strong China focus, with India getting a quick look-in at times. Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, however, relations with Tokyo are also on the front burner.
EU policymakers are working hard to forge a strategy for upgrading relations with Japan — but after years of inertia, transforming lacklustre EU-Japan ties into a more exciting relationship is not proving easy.
In theory they are ‘strategic partners’, ready to work together to tackle bilateral and global challenges. In practice, the EU and Japan have struggled — largely unsuccessfully — to translate their shared concerns on climate change, nuclear proliferation, energy security and free trade into a close, operational and effective partnership.
This may be about to change. EU and Japanese leaders, meeting in Brussels at the end of May, are expected to open discussions on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to boost bilateral trade and investments. The pact could be a useful tool in helping rebuild the Japanese economy following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Equally importantly, it could give a new lease of life to stagnant EU-Japan ties. Since both sides are aiming high, any EU-Japan free trade agreement would also set a new standard of ambition for bilateral FTA deals as well as for trade liberalisation within the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
An EU decision on launching the FTA negotiations has been a long time coming. Japan started lobbying for such an agreement after Japanese car-makers expressed concerns that an EU-South Korean FTA — now finally approved by the European Parliament — would give their South Korean rivals a competitive edge on EU markets.
The Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun reported last November that Japanese manufacturers of home appliances, automobiles and other products would lose $3bn worth of exports to the EU because of the EU-South Korea FTA. Japanese industry says this is because Korean manufacturers will be free of the EU’s 10 per cent tariff on automobiles and 14 per cent tariff on TV sets.
Europeans have not been overly enthusiastic about free trade with Japan, fearing complaints from the EU car industry over two market-opening deals in quick succession. Japan’s economic difficulties in the wake of the recent tragedy, however, appear to have changed the minds of many EU leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron who has come out most vocally in favour of such a move.
An EU-Japan FTA would slash tariffs in bilateral trade, eliminate an array of regulatory and non-tariff barriers, ease stringent testing requirements for consumer goods as well as public procurement rules which restrict European businesses in Japan. EU trade in manufactured goods with Japan was worth 109bn euros in 2010, easily topping the 67bn euros in trade impacted by the new EU-South Korean FTA.
It is likely to be a tough sell, however. As the EU trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, underlined recently, Japan must prove it is willing to open its markets to imports from the EU. “Starting negotiations without having a clear view of what the level of ambition is, if there is really a preparedness to do something about the non-tariff barriers I don’t know if it makes sense,” said De Gucht.
The EU has drawn up a list of 27 Japanese rules — from cumbersome liquor wholesale licence rules to slow-moving approvals of EU food additives — that it says hamper EU exports. Japan, meanwhile, is insistent that the FTA should tackle auto-related and other tariffs.
Any deal with Japan will have to win approval of all 27 EU governments, get the green light from the European Parliament, with policymakers also having to meet concerns of Europe’s car industry. As in the case of EU attempts to provide post-flood trade concessions to Pakistan, some critics are likely to argue that trade agreements should not be viewed in terms of humanitarian assistance.
While such arguments need to be considered, EU governments must push ahead with plans to open FTA talks with Japan.
Such a move would signal a new EU determination to forge stronger relations with Tokyo — and prove to the rest of Asia that Europe is not just focused on improving relations with China. However, work on trade must go hand in hand with stronger efforts by both Brussels and Tokyo to revitalise other aspects of their relationship.
The EU needs Japan’s experience and insight in its dealings with other Asian countries, including China. Japan, meanwhile, needs to broaden its partnership with Europe to include political and security issues, not just trade.
Europe and Japan share the common challenge of making their global presence felt despite being so-called ‘soft powers’.
Although the current focus is on China’s emergence as a global power, it is worth remembering that Japan continues to play a crucial international role, including as a key donor and economic partner for many Asian countries.
Herman Von Rompuy, the current president of the EU Council, is an avid enthusiast of haiku verse and all things Japanese. He is therefore in a privileged position in pushing EU-Japan relations in the right — upward — direction. It takes two sides to
tango, however. As such, both the EU and Japan will have to make sure that the end-May summit marks an important step forward in bilateral relations and allows the EU and Japan to undertake joint initiatives and actions on the global stage.
The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Brussels.

Parliamentary privileges By A.G. Noorani - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/parliamentary-privileges.html

THE law of parliamentary privileges, alike in Pakistan and India, is a standing threat to press freedom. It is vague and uncodified because, by a devious route, it rests still on archaic British law which is uncodified.
This writer is unable to opine on its enforcement by the legislatures and the courts in Pakistan. In India, the conduct of the legislatures, central and state, has been repressive and the judiciary’s rulings are unsatisfactory. The constitutional provisions in both countries were not inherited but were crafted by politicians.
Article 66 (1) of the Pakistani constitution guarantees “freedom of speech” in parliament and immunity from legal proceedings in respect of anything said there. Clause 2 says “in other respects the powers, immunities and privileges” of parliament and its members “shall be such as may from time to time be defined by law and until so defined, shall be such as were, before the commencing day, enjoyed by the National Assembly of Pakistan and the committees thereof and its members”.
This had its counterpart in Article 56 of the democratic constitution of 1956. It guaranteed freedom of speech in the House and immunity from legal proceedings in respect of statements made there. However, Clause 5 said “subject to this article, the privileges of the National Assembly, the Committees and members thereof … may be determined by Act of Parliament”. Since Article 224 continued existing laws, the provisions of the Constituent Assembly (Proceedings and Privileges) Act, 1955 continued in force and, by virtue of Article 66 (1) of the present constitution, continue still in force.
Section 4 of the act ensured freedom of speech and immunity from courts’ intervention. Clause 5 read thus: “In other respects, the powers, privileges and immunities of the Assembly, and of the members and committees thereof, shall be those of the Commons’ House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of its members and committees at the date of commencement of this Act.” It was July 28, 1955.
Thus, tracing the pedigree of Article 66 (2) of the present Pakistani constitution yields the unflattering result that the privileges of the Majlis-i-Shura of Pakistan are those of the Britain’s House of Commons frozen as on July 28, 1955.
The law in India is identically unflattering. For Section 4 of Pakistan’s Act of 1955 is almost identical to Clause 3 of Article 105 of the Indian constitution. Both conveniently adopted the privileges of the House of Commons as they were on a particular date. India, as on Jan 26, 1950, when its constitution came into force; Pakistan as on July 28, 1955 when that act came into force.In 1976, the offending reference to British law was deleted in India for cosmetic reasons, but without altering the
substance. The privileges were to be those “at the commencement” of the amendment. In 1978, came another amendment which repeated “shall be those … immediately before” this amendment; that is as in 1976-77, which, in turn, asked the citizen to consult the law between 1950-76; in short the privileges of the House of Commons. That is the law in Pakistan and India in 2011.
In India, the legislatures, central and state, cocked a snook at the constitutional mandate in Article 105 (3) for codification of the privileges “shall be such as may from time to time be defined by Parliament, and until so defined, shall be those of the House of Commons. …” The framers of the constitution explicitly assured the constituent assembly that that this was a temporary measure and a code was envisaged. It was not enacted because a code of privileges would, like any other law, be subject to fundamental rights.
In 1958, the Supreme Court of India ruled, with disastrous effect, that since in Britain the privileges were not subject to the fundamental rights, incorporation of British law by India had the same effect despite the fundamental rights embodied in the constitution.
In 1964, the UP assembly ordered the arrest of two judges of the Allahabad High Court because they had granted bail to a man whom the assembly had sent to prison for contempt of the House. His advocate was also ordered to be arrested. A full bench of 28 judges of the court granted interim stay.
The president averted an ugly situation by seeking the Supreme Court’s advisory opinion. The court now ruled that it alone could rule on the ambit of the privileges; that the two fundamental rights to personal liberty and to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of any fundamental right are not subject to the privileges; and while irregularities in legislative proceedings are exempt from judicial scrutiny, illegalities are not. But, for reasons hard to appreciate, the court refused to
rule on the issue of whether the privileges are subject to the citizen’s fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression.
Article 105, the source of mischief, was modelled on Section 49 of the Australian constitution. But Australia has codified the privileges in the Parliamentary Privileges Act 1987. It abolished “contempt by defamation” as also the power to expel members. In 1999, a joint committee of both Houses of the British parliament on parliamentary privilege recommended that “contempt of Parliament should be codified in statute” and its “power to imprison persons whether members or not, who are in contempt of Parliament should be abolished”; bar misconduct within the precincts of parliament.
In actual practice, penal powers are very rarely used. Bernard Levin wrote in The Times (Dec 9, 1975) of “the curious passion the House of Commons seems to have for making a collective ass of itself”. In India it is unthinkable that anyone making such remarks about parliament or a state legislature would escape punishment. The Times (London) published a cartoon on April 20, 1988 whose caption read “MPs debate random breath testing”. The entire front bench had MPs in drunken stupor with empty bottles and glasses on the floor. Some back benchers, holding aloft filled wine glasses, said “I declare an interest”.
The writer is an author and a lawyer.

Thoughts of home By Abbas Nasir - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/thoughts-of-home.html

“IF we worked as hard at home as we do here, we’d be so successful there,” the young taxi driver told me with a tinge of sadness. “But there is no justice in Pakistan, not for the poor at least. So those of us who can leave.”
Having tired of walking almost all day in a sun-bathed Barcelona, we finally decided to hail a cab in Las Ramblas, the throbbing heart of the beautiful Catalan capital, which is flocked by tourists at all hours.
Catalans are great nationalists and grudgingly speak Castellano (Spanish to the rest of the world), preferring instead to use their own language. But of course everyone is truly bilingual. So my wife told the cabbie where to go in Spanish.
He must have overheard me saying something to my daughters in Urdu because as I slipped into the seat beside him, he asked me if I could speak Hindi. He was pleased to hear that I could speak Urdu as well as Punjabi.
This pleasant and exceedingly polite man in his late 20s started chatting. He told us he was from a village near Jhelum and had been living in Spain for eight years. “We are actually craftsmen and make Chinioti furniture back home.”
In Spain he had tried his hand at being a carpenter and an electrician but then the economic downturn meant there were fewer and fewer property refurbishments happening. This was his mainstay so he had to diversify and came to be a taxi driver.
Admirable tenacity. An ability to innovate, to continue to make an honest living. Haath, paoon marna, a lovely Urdu phrase to depict this struggle. These thoughts were going through my mind when he sighed and made his comment about justice or
more appropriately the lack of it in Pakistan.
We didn’t have a long way to go and soon our journey was over. “No hace falta,” (There’s no need) he told my wife in chaste Spanish when she tried to settle the fare. I intervened. He was pleasant yet determined.
He refused to take the money, saying it was a delight to meet us, quickly got in the car and drove off. The only thing that bound us together was a Pakistan several thousand miles away that we both had to leave, admittedly, for different reasons. And that this separation saddened us both.
As I saw the taxi disappear round Plaza Tetuan, I was still standing there rather stupidly clutching a 20 euro note in my hand and reminding myself how often generosity and kindness had so little to do with wealth.
There is a large community of Pakistanis in Barcelona mainly from central Punjab and in particular from around Gujrat. They run most of the convenience stores, tourist souvenir shops, do different jobs from driving delivery trucks to selling flowers.
They may have started on the lowest rung of the ladder as one witnessed in the early 1990s but have steadily climbed through sheer dint of hard work and resilience. Some have now been able to bring their families over too.
El Raval, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, has been rechristened Rawalpindi, given the size of the community.
These young men (and a handful of women) are widely regarded as industrious, honest people who have never done a dodgy thing, apart from getting to Spain perhaps illegally. Most of them speak Spanish.
The Chaudhries are said to have taken a keen interest in finding opportunities for their constituents abroad and even facilitating their (often visa-free) journeys. Unlike their PPP ally Rehman Malik, it isn’t clear if the Chaudhries have properties and investments in Spain but they certainly have a constituency.
As a journalist one is also entitled to a break, to enjoy the sights and sounds of different parts of the world. But the Internet somehow never lets you put distance between yourself and the ‘ground reality’ in your patch which seems to follow you tenaciously.
You may be in the picturesque Dordogne valley in France but you aren’t far from the intricacies of the solitary dissenting judge’s (of the three-member bench) verdict in the Mukhtar Mai case. One sees the Qatil League (PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari’s words, not mine) morphing into ‘Qabil-i-Ittehad’ League.
The taxi driver did have a point about justice in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The governing party believes it has to test for itself the system administering justice or it wouldn’t ask the Supreme Court to re-examine Z.A. Bhutto’s case. Wouldn’t winning more elections than any other party since Mr Bhutto’s execution normally be vindication enough for the current PPP leadership?
But then it is a question of politics and not one of justice. And Pakistan is not alone in letting politics take precedence over everything else. Funny, you happen to be in France where a burka and veil ban has been introduced to ostensibly uphold French cultural values.
Whatever happened to equality and liberty? Has the ban really been introduced because the French culture was under threat by a handful of burka-clad women or is Sarkozy, who has slipped dramatically in approval ratings, trying to mop up the ultra-nationalist vote?
As for your columnist, one must concede one was tempted to drive through Sarkozy’s France if not in a burka then certainly in a Zorro mask to try and make a point. But I am not a liberal extremist. And the thought of a 150 euro fine was enough for a moderate liberal to be dissuaded from making a point rather rashly.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Egypt’s new role By Jack Shenker - Saturday 30th April 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/30/egypts-new-role.html

AFTER years of unsuccessful lobbying by the Egyptian authorities for a reconciliation of the warring Palestinian factions, the post-Mubarak government has achieved a breakthrough. As Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Hamas politburo said on Thursday a new page has been turned.
The emergence of a reconciliation deal between Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday took most observers by surprise, but behind the scenes a new cast of players had been moving the relevant pieces into place ever since a popular revolution ousted the Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. His regime had long declared publicly that Palestinian unity was a key foreign policy
objective, and the rhetoric made sense.
Hamas was proving a troubling neighbour in the Gaza Strip on Egypt’s north-eastern border and Cairo had every interest in locking the political Islamists down into a more moderate political framework. Moreover, Egypt’s stewardship of the negotiations boosted its flagging regional status and helped to ensure US political support — and money — kept flowing towards Cairo.
Egypt’s hated spymaster Omar Suleiman was placed in charge of the unity drive, but below the surface Egypt was more interested in the appearance of reconciliation talks than it was in the reality.
Israel and Washington had no genuine desire to see a unified Palestinian government, and Egypt’s thinking followed suit — until, that is, nationwide protests erupted against the regime in late January, and Suleiman was promoted to vice-president in a failed attempt to shore up Mubarak’s position.
Given the country’s internal chaos, few expected his replacement, Murad Mowafi, to devote much energy to the issue of Palestinian factionalism, but in fact Muwafi took the issue seriously — so seriously, in fact, that no fewer than five Israeli delegations were dispatched to his offices in the space of a few weeks in an effort to ward off any unity deal.
Muwafi’s stance was shaped partly by the ascendancy of the career diplomat Nabil el-Arabi to the position of foreign minister in Egypt’s interim government. Arabi had a reputation for saying some decidedly undiplomatic things regarding Egypt’s close alliance with Israel under presidents Mubarak and Sadat, and as part of an internal battle to wrest control of some policy issues away from the secret services — where they had drifted under Mubarak — and back under the auspices of the foreign ministry, he began making loud and relatively critical noises about Israel, marking an important shift in rhetoric. “It is time to stop managing the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, it’s time to end the conflict,” he said earlier this month.
Egypt, in short, was now ready to take Palestinian reconciliation seriously, and that shift in mindset coincided with further regional turmoil: the uprising in Damascus, where most of Hamas’s leadership is based. With the long-term future of their host — Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad — in doubt, the group’s top brass knew it could not risk alienating the Egyptians at the very moment Cairo was finally mounting a genuine push to bring Hamas and Fatah together.
With pro-reconciliation demonstrations bringing thousands to the streets of Gaza and the West Bank in mid-March, and a fresh push on the ground to reanimate the long-dysfunctional Palestinian National Council as a forum of national unification, the political climate was pushing both factions in one direction — and this week’s announcement is the result.
— The Guardian, London

Editorial : Beginning anew - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44404&Cat=8

India will have to wait a little longer to get the “most favoured nation” (MFN) status from Islamabad, and New Delhi will take time removing the non-tariff barriers which fetter the growth of Pakistani exports in the Indian market. No one expected any dramatic announcements following the April 27-28 Pakistan-India secretary-level talks on trade that remained suspended for more than two years in the wake of the Mumbai 2008 carnage. After the bitter deadlock on the issue of terrorism, it is not just natural but also in line with diplomatic norms that the two countries tread slowly and carefully toward the goal of normalising relations at the start of a reengagement process. The foremost challenge is that of building trust. This can only be done through a slow and delicate process that starts with setting down rules of engagement, restating previously stated positions and deciding upon a roadmap for removing obstacles, issues and irritants bedevilling relations between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours.

If judged by this parameter, the two-day trade talks have not ended in failure but have achieved more than we could previously have expected. The first piece of good news is that the two sides have agreed in principle to remove restrictions on cross-border trade and to achieve this, they have decided to put in place an institutional framework. That’s what we can call setting the goal right. The second piece of good news is that Pakistan has decided to move to the “negative list” from the existing “positive list” of 1,946 items which could be imported from India. This should be seen as a first step toward granting MFN status to India, which has been a long-standing demand of, not just New Delhi, but also of a big section of the Pakistani business community and economic experts. On the issue of non-tariff barriers, which block an increase of Pakistani exports to India despite the fact that the country enjoys MFN status by India, the Indian delegation has assured Pakistan of “corrective measures”. The decisions, including expansion of trade through the Wahgah-Attari land route, easing and harmonising customs operations, allowing investments, facilitating bank operations and prospects of initiating trade of petroleum products and electricity – are all steps in the right direction.

Despite all the mistrust and a history of acrimony between the two countries, trade and economic ties are one front where quick gains remain possible. Public opinion as well as most interest groups – both in Pakistan and India – support greater economic and trade cooperation which offers a win-win situation for all. It is time for the leadership of the two countries to seize the moment and aggressively push for building bridges of trust and mutual self-interest through trade cooperation, which in turn may work as a catalyst for peace and prosperity in the entire region. The small steps taken in the trade talks appear to be a perfect new beginning to the process of reengagement. They offer hope and promise bigger gains in the future. 

Mukhtaran Mai: the other side of the story - Bronwyn Curran - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44406&Cat=9

As the author of a 2006 book on the Mukhtaran Mai case and a former Islamabad-based Western female news correspondent, I must raise a voice of dissent amidst the shrill reaction to the Supreme Court’s acquittal of 13 of 14 men accused in Mukhtaran Mai’s case.

In 2005-2006, after many months painstakingly poring through every police statement, medical record, witness testimony, and cross-examination transcript in this case, coupled with multiple visits to Mirwala, Jatoi and Dera Ghazi Khan for extensive interviews with members of both sides of this case, I reached the same conclusion as the Supreme Court has in 2011. The Lahore High Court reached the same conclusion in 2005. Indeed, I would challenge anyone who has the opportunity to pore through all such records and interview members and associates of all sides in this case to come up with any conclusion other than that 13 of the 14 accused are innocent.

May I stress that fundamental to that conclusion (shared by myself, the Supreme Court and the Lahore High Court) is that Ms Mai is indeed a victim of a heinous crime. The question is: of what? The Supreme Court and Lahore High Court find that Ms Mai is a victim of rape, hence their maintenance of Abdul Khaliq’s conviction for rape.

It is my belief that Ms Mai is a victim of two heinous crimes here. One is sexual assault: the kind of sexual assault experienced by women forced to marry against their will, and by women handed over by their men folk as compensatory chattel to settle a feud.

Which leads me to what I believe is the paramount crime here: Vani. Under current laws, Ms Mai’s men folk would be convicted for handing her over to the Mastoi family to atone for her teenage brother’s alleged misbehaviour with a teenage Mastoi girl. The tradition of handing women over to atone for their male relatives’ wrongdoing, known also as Swara, was outlawed by the Pakistan government in January 2005.

The police and court records shows that both the prosecution and the Mastoi family agree that it was Ms Mai’s men folk who presented her to the Mastoi family after many hours negotiating, via a local cleric, to resolve a feud. The feud had erupted earlier that day when Mukhtaran’s brother Shakoor was seen with the Mastoi girl Salma in the sugarcane field between the two families’ homes.

The prosecution’s version of what happened next is well-known. There is also a little-credited defence version; the other side of the story. For what it’s worth, the defence version fits the pattern of many a feud and its resolution in rural Punjab and Sindh: to settle the feud, the perpetrator’s family hands over a female to the victim’s family to be married off to one of their men.

I have met the women of the Mastoi family and heard their vivid accounts of what happened that night. They showed me the shoddy room in their home where, they say, they saw Abdul Khaliq bring Mukhtaran Mai to spend the night with him after a ‘sharai nikah’, an on-the-spot marriage without a certificate. For what it’s worth, they recall Ms Mai being thrown out one or more days later and sent back to her family, in a state of disgrace.

What happened to Ms Mai was outrageous, unsolicited, and must be punished. But the evidence, cross-referenced with my own protracted field research and interviews, suggests that what happened is considerably different from what is alleged by the prosecution.

I would beseech anyone who is concerned with justice and human rights to examine this case in real detail, retrace its genesis and comb through the records, and ask themselves whether a dangerous miscarriage of justice lies beneath the famous Mukhtaran Mai story.

I urge the detractors of the Supreme Court’s brave decision to objectively examine whether the 13 acquitted men, who have each spent between six and nine years in jail despite earlier acquittals, have been wrongly accused and imprisoned.

Perhaps the most obvious wrongful imprisonment is of the eight men accused of being part of an alleged panchayat. These men, who lived 3.5 hours travel from Ms Mai’s village on the other side of the Indus, were acquitted in the original 2002 trial for want of evidence. It is worth reading what the original trial judge had to say about how those men came to be arrested and why he released them without charge. This is the same judge who convicted four others of gang-rape and two of aiding and abetment. Astonishingly, these eight acquitted men were re-arrested two and a half years later in reaction to the storms of outrage that followed the Lahore High Court’s 2005 acquittal of five out of six convicted men. They have been in jail for the six years since 2005, without charge. Where are the human rights advocates standing up for them?

Apart from a wealth of inconsistencies in statements to police and witness testimonies, the paucity of evidence affects many celebrated aspects of the prosecution story. The allegation that Shakoor was molested by three Mastoi males is pure fabrication and easily revealed as such on any study of the case. The claim of Ms Mai being paraded naked before hordes of people was thrown out in the original 2002 trial, yet nevertheless has embedded itself in many re-tellings by media and rights groups. The presentation of the Mastoi tribe as wealthier and more powerful than Ms Mai’s clan was discounted in the original 2002 trial, when police admitted under cross-examination that Ms Mai’s family owned more land and had more powerful connections than the Mastoi family, well before this story began.

It is also my belief that Ms Mai is a victim of characters around her who have used her, her family, the local police and courts for their own purposes. Talk to any lawyer in southern Punjab and they will tell you how often false cases are filed between enemies. It’s my belief that Ms Mai was shamefully taken advantage of and had little control over events once the charges, filed not by her or her family but by two unrelated men, went public.

The charge of gang-rape was brought to the police by the cleric Abdul Razzaq and a local journalist-cum-rights monitor who had heard rumours after Razzaq made claims in a Friday sermon. Ms Mai was not involved in the lodging of charges. Some hours later, she was hauled into the police station unceremoniously in the back of a police truck. There she found a statement already written by the cleric in her name. She was told to attest it with a thumbprint. As is well-known, at that time she could neither read the statement, nor write her name. How was she to know what she was attesting with her thumb?

The next day the charge was in a local newspaper, the following day in national and international press, and just three days later Ms Mai had a cheque for 500,000 rupees in her hand from President Pervez Musharraf. No investigation had taken place, and Ms Mai was already both an international heroine and wealthier than any illiterate villager from a wretched Indus backwater could have ever dreamed.

The writer is a former AFP news editor

Blinkered justice? Dr Farzana Bari - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44407&Cat=9

The Supreme Court’s judgement in the case of Mukhtaran Mai, acquitting all the accused with the exception of one, raises serious concerns about the ability of the legal system to dispense justice to victims of sexual violence in Pakistan. In the split judgement, two judges out of the three dismissed Mukhtaran Mai’s appeal on the grounds that they did not find sufficient evidence to establish that gang-rape had been committed. However, basing his views on the same evidence, the dissenting judge recommended ten years’ imprisonment to five others accused of gang-rape. This shows that the judgement was not purely a technical matter of the law and evidence; it was also an issue of mindsets.

A reading of the detailed judgment will show how the larger cultural context of the crime was almost completely ignored. The delay in the registration of the FIR proved to be fatal to the prosecution’s case and it appears that due weight was not given to the testimony of the victim of the rape.

In the case of Mukhtaran Mai’s brother, Shakoor, where the accused were convicted of sodomy, the judges argued that culturally it was not possible for the accused to endanger the virtue of their sister by detaining her in a room with Shakoor to save themselves from the accusation of sodomy. This indicates a failure to see the gender realities of our society, where women are bought and sold like cattle by male members of their families. They are bartered and exchanged in the name of local traditions of valvar and vani to settle disputes among men. Whereas justice is blindfolded in order for it to be as impartial as possible, it should not be blind. And it is imperative that justice is seen to be carried out as well.

The judgment is the continuity of a judicial culture where rapists were given impunity under the Hudood Ordinance of 1979, under which four male Muslim witnesses were required before a Hud punishment could be handed down in rape cases. This patriarchal bias is clearly reflected in the lack of conviction in rape cases despite the Women’s Protection Act (2006) that removed the crime of rape from the Hudood Ordinance and put it back into the Pakistan Penal Code.

The judgement also encourages the panachyat system which undermines a long-standing demand of women’s rights groups to do away with all parallel judicial systems.

There are those who are dubbing the response of women’s rights activists to this judgment as emotional, and generously advising them not to blame the judges as they are neutral and objective and make judgements purely on the basis of evidence and merit. Let me say to them that there is no such thing as absolute impartiality in this world: absolute impartiality is humanly impossible. We all understand our “objective realities” through our own subjectivities. Personal experiences, value systems and how we view the world play an important role in determining what we choose to see. The personal experiences and value systems of judges often colour their judgements. That is why judicial systems the world over have, in relative terms, failed to dispense justice to those who belong to the underprivileged or minority sections of society.

The judgment highlights the serious flaws in our law as well as in our criminal justice system that is most obviously not geared to dispensing justice to women victims of sexual violence. Inefficiency of investigation due to corruption, use of political influence, lack of access to modern technology such as DNA-testing labs, and inability of the prosecution to gather sufficient evidence are some of the serious institutional issues that the Mukhtaran Mai case has brought to the fore. However, why does Mukhtaran Mai, the victim, have to pay for the inefficiency of the criminal justice system?

The disappointment expressed by human rights activists and civil society organisations on the judgment is not an emotional response as it is portrayed by many male writers. Women are concerned about the serious ramifications of this decision on the fate of victims of violence in this country. The case did not pertain to an individual alone, it was a test case and had wider social ramifications.

The judgement handed down in this case has set a precedent and will be binding on the lower courts. Why did the judges rely merely on the counsels of the complainants and defendants? Why did they not set up an amicus curie to get a wide range of opinions from the legal fraternity, gender experts and human-rights activists? When the judiciary can take this course in the case of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, where ten legal experts are engaged-in a mere political stunt which will not to have any implication for the wider society--why was this not done in the case of Mukhtaran Mai which affects the living, the women of Pakistan?

It is important that we radically revamp our criminal justice system. Judicial reform should be initiated with a priority in making a change in the Evidence Act. To change the patriarchal culture in the judiciary, women judges should be promoted to the higher judiciary.

Our judicial system not only failed Mukhtaran Mai but also the women of Pakistan. However, the people will continue to celebrate Mukhtaran Mai’s defiance and courage. With the tremendous respect she enjoys, Mukhtaran Mai is an emerging popular leader in southern Punjab, where she is seen as a messiah by the oppressed, the under-privileged, and victims of injustices and violence.

The writer is director of the Centre of Excellence in Gender Studies, Quaid-e-Azam University. Email: farzana@comsats.net.pk

Mandate to regulate - Dr Sania Nishtar - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44408&Cat=9

As one of the key instruments of governance, regulatory functions have increasingly been in the spotlight, subsequent to the 18th constitutional amendment.

Regulation can take many forms but in the current context it refers to interventions initiated by the government to correct market failure, or the use of state power to impose constraints on organisations and individuals through a range of instruments issued by the government or non-governmental bodies to which the government has delegated regulatory powers. Amongst the things that can be regulated, price, quality, and numbers are the most salient.

The mandate to regulate is sometimes the basis of tenuous relationship between a federation and its federating units and can lead to unnecessary turf rivalries between different levels of government. Such problems could emerge in Pakistan as provinces discover their newfound regulatory prerogatives after the 18th Amendment. With calls for new provinces whipping up, the ramifications of this trend could be immense.

The recent controversy over devolving the Higher Education Commission helps to illustrate this point. Amongst other things, the HEC is also a regulatory agency, prescribing standards and ensuring compliance. Proponents of devolving HEC opine that education is a provincial subject whilst those that argue for its national role bring to bear its regulatory function as a justification for its existence at the federal level – a role, which the Implementation Commission has now accepted and is working towards retaining. Drug regulation is another example, which is a federal subject in most countries of the world – in fact regional regulatory models are coming up, evident in arrangements in the European Union, Gulf Cooperation Council countries and Latin America.

The question of regulatory prerogatives has many dimensions – questions about national roles in subjects that have been devolved and the much bigger debate about defining national roles in federating systems in a globalised world where there is need for uniformity of standards.

Federating systems in the developing world usually centralise normative aspects of regulation and tend to devolve implementing arrangements. The former is done to maintain uniformity and obviate duplication.

Those that drafted the 18th Amendment were cognisant of the importance of a federal role in regulation and hence an entry was introduced in Part II of the Federal Legislative List “All regulatory authorities established under a federal law”. However, there are questions centred on the validity of creating a regulatory authority to regulate a subject, which has been devolved by the 18th Amendment. This is illustrated in a question, which has arisen in the Sindh High Court with filing of a case against the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority, which was created in exercise of the powers under a federal law – the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Act, 1996. The federal authority prescribes standards in an area - sugar – which, as an agricultural produce, is a provincial subject. The question relating to the validity of federal regulation in a devolved subject is also relevant to drug regulation – Entry 20 “drugs and medicines” was part of the omitted Concurrent Legislative List.

In view of this ambiguity, various views are being mooted to establish a constitutional justification for retaining a federal regulatory role in the post 18th Amendment scenario. One view refers to Article 270AA(6) of the 18th Amendment, which saves all laws with respect to the omitted CLL, enacted prior to the 18th Amendment. These laws continue to remain in force until altered, repealed or amended by the ‘competent authority’. However, this notion is subject to several concerns. First is the question of sub-constitutional vs the constitutional law, with the latter being supreme. Also, the expressions ‘saved’ and ‘competent authority’ have legal connotations in Article 270AAA. While laws have been saved, there are questions about who the ‘competent authority’ is with reference to the power to amend laws. Provincial assemblies and not parliament may now be the competent authorities in the given context.

Secondly, experts are also drawing on the example of the USA, where the power to regulate can be exercised by virtue of the federal subject of interstate commerce. An analogy is being drawn with the prerogative in inter-provincial commerce and federal powers by virtue of Article 151 read with Entry 6 of Part II of the FLL. However, other experts are of the opinion that on a textual analysis, Article 151 does not seem to cover ‘regulation’, as understood in the present context.

The third potential mechanism may be to have any draft law to create a federal regulatory authority approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) prior to promulgation by parliament. Subsequent to enactment, such regulatory authority would be subject to supervision and control of the CCI at which the four chief ministers and the federal government are represented. Based on this, it could be argued that through the forum of CCI, the provinces have acquiesced in the federal government, regulation of an otherwise devolved subject. However, one key weakness in this approach is the counter argument that the chief ministers, whilst participating in the CCI, do not directly represent or are synonymous with the provincial assemblies to which the ‘legislative authority’ in respect of the relevant subjects has been devolved and hence, on a strict interpretation, do not possess the authority and power to empower parliament to enact a law which is the constitutional prerogative of the provincial assemblies. Such approach could also be criticised as a circumvention of the mechanism expressly provided in Article 144.

In sum, therefore, all the constitutional mechanisms being cited as the basis for retaining regulation at the federal level are fraught with some degree of uncertainty. Article 144 is the only valid and non-controversial mechanism in the constitution, which can grant a regulatory mandate to the federal level. It is now imperative that provincial assemblies recognise the imperative and grant the federation a mandate related to regulation, where necessary. The federal government must, in turn, reform its own ability to regulate – its track record is less than desirable. The provinces will still continue to play a role in regulation in such an arrangement through policy oversight enabled through the CCI.

The political and constitutional imperative of political autonomy is well appreciated. Within that context, the 18th Amendment is an important game-changing intervention. However, it is inevitable that many questions will arise in the wake of such a major transformation. The question related to regulatory prerogatives is just one of them. It is critical to carefully think through these questions so that progress towards the premise enshrined within the 18th Amendment can be sustained.

The writer is the founding president of the NGO thinktank, Heartfile.

Email: sania@heartfile.org

End-game in Afghanistan - Saleem Safi - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44409&Cat=9

Why this region descended into bloodshed after 9/11 and how the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan failed to make headway against ragtag militants? Deep reflection has brought me to one answer; faltering unity amongst allies. The militants put their ideological, sectarian, and linguistic differences behind them and rallied round commonalities; but their opponents, especially the US, Afghanistan and Pakistan, were playing games with each other.

The US maintained an untrustworthy relationship with Pakistan, and in return got the same treatment from its ally. It never felt like trusting the Karzai-led Kabul government. Pak-Afghan relations remained tense too. Pakistan accused Kabul of ingratitude and being a pawn in the hands of Pakistan’s enemies, while Kabul accused Pakistan of a double game. Many sane voices who are directly affected by this war have constantly been stressing the need to push the US out of the Pak-Afghan equation and find a local solution to the conflict. But Musharraf did not listen and Karzai could take no such a risk. Basically Musharraf never respected Karzai. He thought that Karzai would be won over to our side if Uncle Sam was happy with him. Karzai also took the same rout and placed all complaints against Pakistan at Washington’s door.

In 2003 I gifted Karzai a book The Imperial Hubris by a US writer with a message that read “for president Karzai with best wishes and longing that he might read this book to understand the US designs and establish direct relations with Pakistan.” The book contains a chronology of US blunders in Afghan land and its designs. During discussions on the book, I reminded Karzai that Pakistan and Afghanistan are deeply interdependent. The foreign invaders in the region would leave it sooner than later. Therefore Pakistan and Afghanistan should stop playing with each other and establish good relations. Instead of bringing Pakistan and Afghanistan closer, the US incites fighting between us because that would serve its purposes. Why don’t Kabul and Islamabad follow the shortest route of Torkham instead of the longest route through Washington?

Karzai swore that he considered Pakistan his second home and gives utmost importance to Islamabad, but genuinely complained against the media here which calls him names like “mayor of Kabul” and holds him responsible for regional conspiracies against this country. He also felt insulted by Musharraf and the Pakistani establishment, who considered him the Karzai of the Cold War era who was living in Pakistan.

Pakistanis and Afghans, especially Pakhtuns on both sides of the border, have suffered tremendously in this regional conflict. However, after so many years of blames and counter-blames, Karzai and Pakistanis have come to the point that the US would never help them solve their mutual problems and therefore should be expelled from the equation between their two countries. First the US tried to hold Pakistan responsible for its failure in Afghanistan and then did the same thing to Karzai. The previous Afghan presidential election brought Karzai and Pakistan closer; Karzai was emboldened to stand up to the US once he found Pakistan on his side. He waited for a few months to observe Obama’s Afghan policies which undoubtedly are as ambiguous as Bush’s. He convened a Loya Jirga to get mandate for reconciliation with the Taliban. The US was not happy with this development, but found it impossible to oppose the decision of the constitutionally most powerful Loya Jirga. Intelligently, Karzai appointed a Tajik, Ustad Burhanuddin Rabbani, as head of the Reconciliation Council. The Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami have contacted each other many times over the past few months. Karzai had been insisting that Pakistan and Afghanistan should constitute a joint “reconciliation commission,” but initially Pakistanis did not respond positively. However, Karzai continued with measures to reassure Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the US contempt for both countries crossed the limits pushing them to establish the joint “reconciliation commission” on April 16. Both countries had agreed in principle a few months back to establish the commission, but Karzai wanted that the Pakistani military leadership and the ISI should also be taken onboard. After the ISI chief’s visits to the US and Turkey, Pakistan accepted the establishment of the commission. When the DG ISI, the COAS and the prime minister of Pakistan visited Kabul the commission had already been established. However, it was still undecided whether the foreign ministers would head the commission.

However, Kabul insisted that the chief executives of both countries should head the commission. Pakistan accepted this demand moments before the announcement of the commission. Keeping in view the background, it is safe to state that this commission is the most important development in the context of problems and a right step to solve the conflict.

This time I did not find the opportunity to meet Karzai or his ministers and officials because of the high profile guests from Pakistan. Karzai, like most of us who supported the idea of a joint effort to find solution of the problems, was very happy. However, I thought that important hurdles are yet to be crossed; it is yet to be seen whether Pakistan and Afghanistan become real friends are repeat the past mistakes of playing with each other. Similarly, how much the US is going to support the process and how long the two hold against US wishes and dictates. What would be response of the Taliban and how Al-Qaeda reacts has yet to be known. Most importantly, whether India, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey Russia and the US support the initiative or scuttle it through machinations. Also how the bad designs of some these countries are defeated?

The writer works for Geo TV. Email: saleem. safi@janggroup.com.pk

Our sickly democracy - Babar Sattar - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44410&Cat=9

The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.

In the absence of a functional democracy rooted in constitutionalism and rule of law, is it surprising that civilian control of the military remains elusive in Pakistan? “The wonder... is not why the military rebels against its civilian masters, but why it ever obeys them,” asserted Samuel Finer in his seminal work ‘The man on the horseback’. Students of civil-military relations continue to squabble over the allocation of blame to adventurist khakis and non-performing civilian regimes for the breakdown of democracy. Whether one believes that an over-bloated military keeps democracy weak and dysfunctional by design to guard its turf and create opportunities to assume greater control of the state, or that corrupt and ineffectual political regimes create a vacuum that the khakis are forced to fill, there is agreement that a dysfunctional civilian government partly explains military intervention.

Last week, speaking to officers of Quetta Staff College, the Chief Justice of Pakistan reminded khakis that the principle of civilian control of the military was firmly rooted in the Constitution. He candidly recounted our past for their benefit: ‘The history of Pakistan reflects a recurring conflict between underdeveloped a political system and a well-organised army. When there are political crises, we have witnessed military intervention followed by military rule. Thus, there emerged a vicious circle of brief political dispensation followed by prolonged military rule. This state of affairs brought many setbacks and hampered the process of evolution of constitutionalism and the democratic system of governance.’ He also reiterated the concept of equality before law by reminding the officers that, “the soldier and the citizen stand alike under law...both must obey the command of Constitution and show obedience to its mandate.”

The khakis must not view the Constitution as a useless scripture. It would do this country a whole lot of good if they revisited their sociology and made allegiance to our fundamental law a part of their conception of professionalism. But there has never been much dispute about what the military ought to do from a constitutional perspective. Yet one bleeding heart dictator after another has told us that the skies are about to cave in and if the generals don’t follow their self-assumed obligation (in conflict with dictates of law) to step in and save the nation, we are all doomed. We blame judges for abetting dictators and conjuring up legal fiction for the purpose, as we should. But even if they were to abide by their oath to protect the Constitution and go down fighting, as they must, would it prevent military interference in politics?

This is no apology for the loathsome doctrine of necessity. But will generals suddenly see the light, start taking their oath of allegiance to the Constitution seriously and yield to civilian control? Notwithstanding whether one lays the blame for military takeovers on power-hungry generals or a blundering political elite, the opportunity to intervene in politics will not dry up unless a democratic system of governance delivers, political parties emerge as representative institutions, politics is focused on policy-making and not power grab alone, and political culture accommodates integrity, dissent and merit. We can continue to cry conspiracy, but so long as dividends of democracy do not trickle down to the ordinary citizen, the polity will remain vulnerable to generals lurking in the shadows.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ edited by Dr Maleeha Lodhi and recently published is recommended reading for anyone interested in finding solutions to the myriad problems confronting us as a nation-state. It addresses the whole gamut of issues holding up our potential ranging from myopic ideology, skewed foreign policy, tenuous economy and civil-military imbalance to the crisis of energy and education. Given that the contributors are not foreigners, the analysis, critique, solutions, frustrations and hope that it presents are indigenous. Members of our elites (especially political elites) who view themselves as agents of progression and change would do well to read the book and especially the chapter authored by Dr Lodhi.

Undemocratic party structures, a feudal-tribal culture, and politics of patronage as opposed to policy are three of the main weaknesses identified by Dr Lodhi that create a disconnect between civilian governance and public service. Presently, there is no separation between a political party as an institution and its top leadership. In the absence of institutional autonomy or shared decision-making, the policies of the party are essentially the whims of its leader. The barriers to entry and upward progression within parties prevent them from grooming leaders and nurturing the talent, ideas and expertise required to run a government.

The institutional deficiencies are compounded by the power elites’ ‘feudal-tribal’ style of conducting politics that fuels sycophancy and shuns dissent, and is described by Dr Lodhi as, “personalised, based on ‘primordial’ social hierarchies, characterised by patronage seeking activity and preoccupied with protecting and promoting their economic interests and privileged status.” Such autocratic party structure and political culture directs the focus of politics toward acquiring the spoils of office to reward ‘clients’ and buttress traditional networks of patronage and political support, as opposed to seeking public office to implement policies and improve the system of governance for the benefit of all citizens.

We saw Benazir Bhutto gift her father’s party to her son through a will. We see Shahbaz Sharif’s son being treated as heir apparent of the PML-N. We witness Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Asfandyar Wali, Fazalur Rehman, Altaf Hussain and the Chaudharies lord over their respective parties on an everyday basis. There is no room for dissent within political parties. Be it Aitzaz Ahsan, Shah Memood Qureshi or Safdar Abbasi of the PPP or Javed Hashmi of the PML-N, any independent thinking amounts to disloyalty, attracts the ire of the party leader and clips the dissenter’s role within the party.

Javed Hashmi exhibited tremendous character when he expressed shame for supporting a dictator two and half decades back. He showed remarkable courage when he called upon the Sharifs to assume responsibility for past choices and actions. Would Nawaz Sharif not emerge as a bigger man if he took Javed Hashmi’s advice and apologised to the nation for being a part of the Zia regime? And do members of the PPP who celebrated Mr Hashmi’s speech in the National Assembly not see the hypocrisy in their perfect ease with Asif Zardari treating the PPP as his personal fief?

Do they not realise that given the ideology, manifesto and political program of the PPP, their party has nothing in common with the PML-Q, except the shared desire of their respective leaders to distribute the spoils of office amongst themselves and their cronies?

Democracy is more than a process. Its pith and substance is a system of governance that protects and serves the interests of ordinary citizens, regardless of their political preferences. It is in upholding the substance of democracy that ineffectual civilian governments falter and as a consequence cede political space to generals. While uninterrupted political process is imperative to realise the dividends of democracy, public support for such continuity cannot be fostered by a ruling political elite visibly unresponsive to public needs.

The message of hope springing out of Pakistan: Beyond the Crisis State is the inevitability of change being ushered in by a growing, informed and assertive middle class together with a free and vocal media. Pakistan is not ready to suffer another khaki saviour. But neither is it willing to put up indefinitely with autocratic civilian regimes engaged in a transactional relationship with ordinary people, reducing them to petty clients. Business, as usual, is no longer sustainable. Political parties can either become vehicles for change or get wiped away as agents of the status quo.

Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

Gen Betray-us to Icon Petraeus - Anjum Niaz - Saturday, April 30, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=44411&Cat=9

Bad news for our anchors and their guests back home. Once more they will have to deal with the name “Petraeus” now that he moves centre stage as the CIA chief. The name, admittedly, is a tongue-twister or, shall we say, tongue-in-cheek? In September of 2007, I “shadowed” Gen David Petraeus during his congressional hearings in Washington DC. As the architect of the Iraq surge, he was commanding the US forces there. He had convinced the Bush administration that for the final “surge” on Iraq he needed more troops on ground. MoveOn.org, a political NGO funded by billionaire George Soros, reacted sharply. It took out a full-page ad in The New York Times with his mug shot headlined “General Petraeus or General Betray Us?”

The nickname “Betray-us” stuck. Leading Democrats in the Senate and the House openly castigated President George W Bush’s favourite general. Their catcalls of “Gen Betray-us” reverberated throughout Capitol Hill, sending shockwaves to the horrified Bush administration. The Republicans hit back by calling their most successful general “King David.”

The chatter in the US media is different today. Petraeus, 58, is being called the “most iconic battle commander of his generation.” Military analysts credit him with great success when he says: “America can successfully wage war against elusive enemies.” After all, he’s the “Professor of War” whose Counterinsurgency Doctrine has paid rich dividends in Iraq.

What, then, is Counterinsurgency? Simply stated, it is “Political and military strategy or action intended to oppose and forcefully suppress insurgency.” (Get ready for more drone attacks, Gen Pasha, and even boots on the ground when Petraeus takes over as the chief spy!)

Many believe that because Petraeus was a threat to President Obama as a presidential candidate next year, his chances have been sealed by his being shut off to CIA despite the general’s telling Vanity Fair: “I’m not running for president.”

The heavily decorated general has spent more than 30 years in the army. Jack Keane, a retired four-star general says Petraeus should have been made chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Admiral Mike Mullen’s retirement. Having “turned around two wars, I think it is outrageous that he wasn’t offered that position.”

Remember another joint chiefs of staff, Gen Colin Powell? He toyed with the idea of challenging Bill Clinton in the 1996 presidential election. Then, in 2004, there was Gen Wesley Clark, a regular on CNN, who too dreamed of the White House. Obama doesn’t want Petraeus getting the same ideas!

So how will the new CIA chief interact with Pakistan? Well, when Petraeus was commanding Iraq and Afghanistan some years ago, he told a Senate panel that militants in Pakistan “could literally take down their state” if left unchallenged. His views may remain unchanged.

Our military strategists back at the GHQ, meanwhile, are not sitting idle. They have tried pre-empting the CIA pressure by making PM Gilani hand carry a top-secret dossier for Karzai in Kabul. The Afghans have leaked the contents to America. “Look East, not West” is the message Gilani supposedly conveyed. “Look to China; not America.”

Petraeus, whose Princeton doctoral thesis was on the Vietnam War and the US use of superior technology and firepower, has perhaps checkmated the Pakistani move by getting his man to be his “eyes and ears” in Kabul. Ryan Crocker, the shrewdly suave diplomat who served in Pakistan before joining Petraeus in Baghdad as the ambassador will keep a close watch on the slippery Karzai government.

“Results, boy results,” is what Petraeus demands from his team. These are the words he heard from his Dutch dad while growing up.

The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting. Email: anjumniaz @rocketmail.com

Storm in a Gandhi cap by Ashish Sharma - 30 April 2011

Source : http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/opinion/2011/April/opinion_April154.xml&section=opinion&col=

Real courage, as Atticus Finch memorably said, is “when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do”.

So it was with the audacious Anna Hazare-led agitation that eventually led to the appointment of five civil society members to the joint committee set up to draft the long-pending Lokpal Bill. Discount the righteousness of the cause, though, and much the same can be said of the Congress-led coalition government’s response to the agitation. Much the same, in fact, can be said of most politicians across parties who have sensed the ground shifting beneath their feet but have found it difficult to curb their instincts.
Even after the Manmohan Singh government buckled in the wake of swelling support to the agitation, it refused to accept the will of the people. Both the Congress president and the prime minister made the right noises expressing their resolve to combat corruption but the flurry of so-called revelations about the civil society nominees on the panel, with the Congress turning to its tried and tested ally Amar Singh for his special skills, bore the unmistakable stamp of the ruling party. The Congress party refused to resign itself to the defeat which it had brought upon itself through a series of scams and instead launched a smear campaign to discredit the civil society nominees.
Anna Hazare became a soft target when he lauded the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi for his rural development work and when he said he did not want to fight an election. The father-son duo of Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan needed something more damning and conveniently enough surfaced a CD implicating Bhushan senior in a conversation with Mulayam Singh Yadav promising the latter that his son could “manage” a judge for Rs 4 crore. Since a government lab predictably pronounced the CD as genuine while an independent lab found it doctored, demands began to gather steam that the Bhushans should withdraw from the panel pending further inquiry. “The government wants us to fall into this trap,” cautioned Arvind Kejriwal, among the brains behind the agitation and a member of the joint committee, “The government does not want tough negotiators on the panel.”
In a tradition dating back to the Mahabharat, anybody with anything to lose, including sections of the media, sided with those in power. The questions persisted. Why can’t the civil society nominees be replaced? Don’t we have other eminent lawyers in the country? The fact that the nominees comprised those who had drafted the Jan Lokpal Bill failed to silence the chorus for their ouster. As curiously did the implied assurance that with these members on board the country would be saddled with one less “high command”. Imagine Anna Hazare calling the shots from behind the panel controlled fifty per cent from the outside by the prime minister who in turn is remote controlled by the Congress president!
Congress leader Digvijay Singh even questioned the anti-graft record of the Karnataka Lokayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde. The sequence of events suggests that this proved to be an overreach. While the Bhushans stood their ground, Justice Hegde, the best-known anti-graft practitioner in the country threatened to resign from the panel. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, the chairman of the joint committee, was forced to issue an unequivocal statement that the “controversies” would have no bearing on the working of the panel and that the government was committed to a strong Lokpal Bill to fight corruption.
By then, however, the Congress party had lost a second successive battle. Despite Sonia Gandhi’s disclaimers, few believed that the smear campaign did not have her sanction. For all their unsavouriness, the likes of Digvijay Singh are not in the business of waging personal battles. Could a government smothered in graft afford to be seen as resisting an anti-graft law just because it was so piqued? That the Congress bosses failed to grasp this simple political reality only reiterates the power of the entrenched interests that have kept the Lokpal Bill at bay for 42 long years.

Limits of Chinese power by Evelyn Goh - 30 April 2011

Source : http://www.khaleejtimes.com/displayarticle.asp?xfile=data/opinion/2011/April/opinion_April155.xml&section=opinion&col=

That China is one of the most powerful states in the world is no longer a contested claim, but cataloguing China’s increasing material resources does not in itself demonstrate that China is powerful.

A more telling question is how effectively does China convert its growing resources into influence over other states’ strategic choices and the outcomes of events?
Southeast Asia presents an apparently “easy” case for investigating China’s rising power. Given the significant asymmetry of power, if China’s power has indeed grown, we would expect to see altered preferences and behavior of these weaker neighbours in response to coercion, persuasion or inducement from China. Results so far are mixed. While China has been able to harness much of the region’s economic energy in a favorable direction, it does get its way in territorial and resource conflicts.
China’s burgeoning economic rise has restructured economic networks in East Asia, fueling regional production for China as the final assembly and export point to the rest of the world. The Chinese government has also tried to consolidate its economic leadership position by driving broader economic regionalism.
In less-developed mainland Southeast Asia, China’s participation has made feasible region-wide economic development plans for the Greater Mekong Subregion initiative of the Asian Development Bank, drawing international investment for infrastructural projects. These connect the poorer states – Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam – to the markets of China and Thailand, while improving China’s access to raw material supplies and ports in the Indian Ocean and East China Sea. These schemes have also spurred Japanese and American interest and investment in Mekong regionalism. More prominently, China’s initiative for a free trade agreement with ASEAN overcame the nagging problem of galvanising an economic integration project. When it came into effect in 2010, the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement formed the world’s largest free trade area, comprising 1.9 billion consumers and US$4.3 trillion in trade.
Southeast Asian states were unable to achieve effective regional economic integration because of the Cold War and competitive economic profiles in low-cost manufacturing. China has lent weight and momentum to translating their shared developmental imperative into regional economic integration. It exercises power via a multiplier effect: The size of its manufacturing sector produces economies of scale, and its political clout lends significance, even legitimacy, to the enterprise.
While such a multiplier role is crucial to China’s political successes in Southeast Asia, it paradoxically does not provide the best evidence for China’s influence, because Beijing is mobilising pre-existing shared preferences and does not have to get others to do what they did not want to do.
In contrast, situations in which the pre-existing preferences of other states are unclear or undecided – such as the prominent debate in the 1990s about whether rising China was a threat – present opportunities for China to influence its neighbours by persuading them that its own narrative of the so-called peaceful rise is more accurate and certainly more profitable. Against the gathering discourse about a China threat, an official Chinese campaign took off from the mid-1990s to shape world perceptions of China instead as a benign, responsible great power.
This campaign involved an alternative narrative about China’s cooperative New Security Concept, and its “peaceful rise” or “peaceful development” as it strives for a “harmonious world.” The message was intended to reassure neighbours that China’s resurgence would not threaten their economic or security interests because of its peaceful intentions, limited national capabilities, mutually beneficial development trajectory and pluralist international mindset.
Rhetoric was accompanied by policy action. In Southeast Asia, China negotiated land, though not maritime, border disputes with Vietnam; fully participated in ASEAN institutions; and undertook highly publicised restraint and aid during the 1997 and 2009 financial crises. China’s persuasive power encompassed economic inducement.
Yet, there are limits to how much policymakers in Southeast Asian states have been reassured regarding the China threat. China’s power to persuade is rooted in its ability to sustain benign policy action. Apart from efforts to offset some of the adverse effects of Chinese economic competition, China’s neighbours are also watching its behaviour in more serious conflicts of interest.
The best way to gauge the conversion of power into influence is in cases where the powerful actor causes another actor to change policy on a significant issue on which they have clashed. In the case of China and Southeast Asia, such issues include policies on Taiwan, defence relations with the US and policies on territorial disputes. On these potential hard cases, it’s difficult to find significant changes in Southeast Asian states’ policies in response to Chinese actions to date.
China’s behaviour in disputes constitutes a critical test of its intentions, and its hard line backfired seriously in that it led to a closing of ranks across Southeast Asia, Japan and the US. Beijing’s actions lend weight to regional pessimists who are not persuaded of its peaceful rise, and sustained coercive action may prompt its neighbours towards the very containment policies that it wishes to avoid.
Having said this, it is worth noting that, so far, there are few good cases of China managing to make Southeast Asian states to do what they otherwise did not want to do. Alongside Beijing’s successful record of persuasion and inducement, it has shown caution in exerting pressure on its neighbours with the most challenging issues. The recent backlash in the South China Sea is likely to make Beijing more cautious. China’s still limited military capacity provides an important explanation, since, particularly in the maritime access and security arena, the presence of the United States still serves as a significant deterrent.
Dr. Evelyn Goh is reader in international relations and ESRC mid-career development fellow (2011-13) at Royal Holloway, University of London© 2011 Yale Center for the Study of Globalisation

Leaks debunk Al Qaida myth By Jason Burke - April 30, 2011

Source : http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/leaks-debunk-al-qaida-myth-1.800949

Hidden deep in the leaked Guantanamo files is a small but important trove of information, too historical and too technical to have commanded much space in newspapers keener on hyperventilating about ‘nuclear Al Qaida hellstorms' this week. Each of the 700-plus files includes a short biography of its subject. These cover his ‘prior history' and ‘recruitment and travel' to wherever he became fully engaged with violent extremism and, with brutal if unintended efficiency, demolish three of the most persistent myths about Al Qaida.
The first is that the organisation is composed of men the CIA trained to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan who then turned on their mentors. In fact among the bona fide Al Qaida operatives detained in Guatanamo Bay there are very few who are actually veterans of the fighting in the 1980s, and none of these were involved with groups that received any substantial technical or financial assistance from the US, even indirectly via Pakistan.
The second is that an ‘international brigade' of extremists was responsible for the Soviet defeat. The records make it clear that their combat contribution was negligible.
The third myth is that most of those currently waging jihad against the Crusader-Zionist alliance were actively recruited by Al Qaida and brought, brainwashed, to Afghanistan to fight or be trained. The descriptions of almost all those in Guantanamo genuinely associated with Al Qaida shows that in fact they spent much time and money overcoming many difficulties to find a way to reach Al Qaida. They were not dumb or vulnerable youths ‘groomed' to be suicide bombers; they were highly motivated, often educated and intelligent, men. Such details are easy to dismiss as irrelevant to the threat posed by militancy today. But they are not. For one of the elements marking the evolution of the discussion and analysis of the phenomenon that Al Qaida constitutes is the extraordinary degree to which it has been informed by myths.
There have been various waves of myth-making about Al Qaida. The first wave came in the late 1990s, when the group gained international notoriety with attacks on US embassies in east Africa and a warship off the Yemen.
It was then that the idea that Al Qaida was ‘blowback' from the Afghan war became conventional wisdom. After September 9 came a new, massive surge of fearful fantasy. There was the normal derogatory propaganda expected in wartime. A more pernicious myth was the idea that Al Qaida was a ‘tentacular organisation' with sleeper cells across the world waiting for the moment to strike with weapons of mass destruction. This minimised the role that both ideology and a variety of historical factors (ranging from demographics in the Islamic world to a discourse that stressed the ‘humiliation' of Muslims by the west) had played.
Domestic repression
The emphasis on the agency of Osama Bin Laden and his entourage discouraged interest in the broader causes of terrorism and thus made the fundamental strategic errors made by US and other policymakers in the early part of the last decade much more likely to happen.
Many myths were deliberately generated by governments. In 2002 and 2003, regimes around the world scrabbled to uncover or rebrand local militant movements with long histories as Al Qaida offshoots. New Delhi claimed that Bin Laden, a 6ft 4in Arab and one of the most recognisable fugitives for centuries, had hidden in Kashmir.
The Russians claimed the Chechen conflict was not about centuries of territorial wars in the Caucasus but about ‘global jihad'. The discovery of a local branch of Al Qaida guaranteed major financial, diplomatic and military pay-offs from Washington — or at the very least a blind eye turned to domestic repression. So the Macedonians rounded up some Shiite Pakistani immigrants, clothed them in combat outfits and shot the ‘Al Qaida operatives' dead.
Finally, there were the most egregious examples of mythmaking: the spurious connection of Al Qaida to former Iraqi president Saddam Hussain and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
Most of the documents in the Guantanamo files date from 2003 to 2005, and reflect the concerns of the time. The assessments of each detainee reveal a particular focus on the threat of a mass casualty attack involving chemical and biological weapons.
The events of this spring have shown that Bin Laden and his cronies are definitively drifting to the geographic, political, cultural and ideological margins of the Islamic world. Their attempt to radicalise and mobilise hundreds of millions of people has failed. Crowds shouting slogans of democracy have succeeded in forcing the departure of two leaders and shaken several more. The Arab spring started with a public self-immolation, an act of spectacular violence which impressed because it harmed no other and was thus a clear repudiation of the suicide attacks of the last decade. The few statements from Al Qaida's leadership or affiliate groups have sounded tired and irrelevant.
— Guardian
Jason Burke is the Guardian's south Asia correspondent and the author of Al Qaida: The True Story of Radical Islam.