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Showing posts from March, 2010

The lion’s meek roar

The Sharif brothers seem to be in habit of creating unnecessary controversies. And in doing so, they end up exposing their credentials rather baldly. In a press conference on Saturday, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif appeared to be unapologetic over his recent attempt at sabotaging the democratic process. Mr Sharif said that he had no regrets over his alleged u-turn on the constitutional reforms package and he stood by what he said on March 25. To the amazement of everyone, Mr Sharif blamed the PPP for the deadlock over the constitutional amendments by saying that the ruling party is “associating every issue with the 17th Amendment”. Maybe it is time to remind Mr Sharif that it is the PML-N itself that has associated every issue with the 17th Amendment and not any other political party. Being a two-time premier, Mian Nawaz Sharif is the only one who would be affected if that clause is not taken out of the 17th Amendment. Thus it does not make sense for the PML-N to blame this deadlock on the…

Fair is foul, and foul is fair

Something is rotten in the state of Pakistan. Or so Mr Nawaz Sharif’s historic blunder on March 25 would have us believe. Mr Sharif failed to give a persuasive argument that day. Since there was no justification for his actions, the PML-N went into damage control mode right away. Ishaq Dar has now assured Raza Rabbani that the PML-N would sort out this mess in due course of time. The judicial issue has been laid to rest, to a certain extent at least, while the issue of renaming the NWFP is inching closer to an agreement. The PML-N must realise that this is important for the Pakhtuns and we should not disappoint them on this issue. It is still not too late to settle this matter.

The rumour mills are abuzz with speculations that the ‘pressure’ on Nawaz Sharif emanated from judicial quarters. Whether this is true or not can only be ascertained once Mr Sharif comes clean about it. So far, he has not been forthcoming on this aspect of the matter. If true, it indicates that somebody tried to…

Pakistan’s new national game

In the past week we have seen quite a flurry of activity on the sports front in Pakistan. First there was the whole cricket controversy where we saw the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) dishing out all sorts of lifetime and-years-long bans, levying heavy fines on players and what have you. Then the huffing and puffing stopped and the PCB backtracked on the lifetime ban issue. An official statement by the PCB said, “Some media channels have interpreted the first recommendation of the inquiry committee regarding Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan as being a life ban on these two players from playing for Pakistan. The PCB wishes to clarify that the recommendation of the Committee is not a life ban on these cricketers. As and when the PCB deems appropriate, these players will be considered for selection for the national team.” Phew, a sigh of relief there because this would have been too great a penalty for Mullah Yousuf (oops, I meant Muhammad Yousuf) and Younis (needs anger management classes)…

Existentialist threat

The PML-N’s right wing ideology is an open secret. Thus it is not surprising if the party has now come clear on its stance vis-à-vis the militant outfits. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has finally exposed the real face of his party by giving an inane statement in a blatant show of provincialism. Taking a narrow provincialist stance while totally ignoring the national crisis, Shahbaz Sharif pleaded with the Taliban to spare Punjab from its terrorist attacks. He said that since the Taliban opposed foreign dictation and were pursuing the policy of terrorism to fight against a foreign invasion (i.e. the Americans) and the PML-N too opposed General Musharraf’s policies, Punjab ruled by the PML-N should be spared terrorist attacks. Mr Sharif said, “Musharraf planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule, but we in the PML-N opposed his policies and rejected dictation from abroad.”

The absurdity of these comments cannot be overstated. Not onl…

Pakistan-US strategic dialogue

Pakistan and the US are all set to meet for an important strategic dialogue on March 24 in Washington. “The objective of strategic dialogue is to enhance people-to-people relationships, which can bridge the trust deficit,” was how Prime Minister Gilani described the upcoming meeting. The Washington ‘meet’ will be of utmost importance for both the US and its frontline ally in the war on terror. A high power delegation from Pakistan will be meeting its American counterparts. The significance of this meeting can be assessed from the fact that apart from the prime minister, the foreign minister and other ministers and government officials, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Kayani, will also be part of the delegation. General Kayani has already held a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to discuss the agenda for the Pak-US strategic dialogue. In the said meeting, the COAS exchanged views on matters related to Pakistan and India. If read between the lines, th…

Women, their rights, and nothing less

March 8 is celebrated as the International Women’s Day worldwide. This day holds special significance as it highlights the plight of women all over the world. Women may have come a long way from when they initially started the women’s movement in the early 1900s but even today their plight is far from over. Though many developed nations have accorded equal status to women as that of men, most of the developing countries lag far behind in this arena. Pakistan is a glaring example of how women are still struggling to get accepted as human beings and not just mere chattel. “The true republic – men, their rights and nothing more; women, their rights and nothing less,” was the motto of renowned women’s rights activist Susan B Anthony’s weekly journal, The Revolution, in the 19th century. These words still hold true for many societies in the 21st century, particularly Pakistani society.

Pakistan got its independence in 1947. Sixty-three years down the line and our women are still not free fr…

Prime Minister’s address

Prime Minister Gilani addressed the nation on radio for the first time this Friday. He did not say anything that was new; it was just another reiteration of the government’s ostensible achievements. Mr Gilani said that “the time is not far away when we will be able to clear our land of terrorists”. To this government’s credit, it must be said that it has brought about a sea change in public opinion on the war against terrorism. The Musharraf regime’s dual policy had created a lot of confusion, which was why when the Lal Masjid operation took place, it had to face public anger. The PPP government has been able to reverse the tide and has in effect strengthened the hand of the political forces and the military. Both the government and the military should remain steadfast and crush the terrorist network.

Prime Minister Gilani said that during the two years that the PPP government has been in power, it has “made relentless endeavours to surmount the inherited problems”. He was obviously re…

PPP and the working class

President Zardari has signed the Services Tribunal (Amendment) Bill 2010, repealed the Removal from Service (Special Power) Ordinance 2000 and Section 2A of the Services Tribunal Act 1973, a controversial clause that deprived redress to employees as they were not allowed to approach labour courts. Friday obviously turned out to be quite an eventful day for the PPP government. On the one hand the prime minister tried to plead the government’s case in his first monthly radio address to the nation while on the other hand, the president gave voice to the working class. The government has moved in the right direction by taking the PPP back to its original pro-people roots.

When the PPP came into being in 1967, its manifesto aroused great enthusiasm amongst the working class and the peasantry as it promised them a bright future. The PPP manifesto gave an impression that all factories belonged to the workers while all land belonged to the cultivators. The PPP promised to implement land refor…

Good cop, bad cop

The US is a master at playing games, especially when it comes to a good cop, bad cop routine. Pakistan has been at the receiving end of this policy for decades. US special envoy Richard Holbrooke played the role of the good cop in Washington after his recent visit to South Asia. He said that his “greatest concern is to help the Pakistanis with their economic and energy problems”. Mr Holbrooke’s remarks are much appreciated since Pakistan is indeed going through its worst economic and energy crises. Besides, a country’s economy cannot be stabilised without addressing its energy needs. American help in this area would certainly be of great importance. Investors do not invest in a country with a weak justice system. We must formulate a policy framework to address this issue and make Pakistan an investment-friendly country. Richard Holbrooke further said that to help Pakistan deal with the water crisis, a water resources task force has been set up by the Obama administration. It is hoped …

Saudi doublespeak

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal made some very interesting remarks during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia. He said that Pakistan is a “friendly country” and Saudi Arabia was “worried” about the rising tide of extremism there. One would like to remind Prince Faisal as to the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in fuelling religious extremism in Pakistan.

Being the custodian of Islam’s holy places, Saudi Arabia has great reverence in all Muslim countries. Add to it petro-dollars and the ‘reverence’ increases manifold. Pakistan has been a close ally of the Saudis for a long time for both reasons; some say that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared Ahmedis non-Muslims at the behest of the Saudis. Whether there is any truth to this cannot be said with certainty, but it is no secret that in order to counter the Soviets during the Afghan war in 1979, General Ziaul Haq got Saudi money to fund madrassas where the ‘mujahideen’ were trained to fight the ‘godless’ commun…

Closet Taliban?

It is a matter of extreme concern that a provincial law minister has been seen pandering to a banned organisation’s senior leader. Rana Sanaullah, who happens to be Punjab’s Law Minister, either forgot his own designation during his recent visit to Jhang or was suffering from amnesia when he took Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) leader Maulana Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi on a ride in his car. He also visited the banned organisation’s madrassa. Is it not ironic that the law minister gave full protocol to a sectarian outfit’s leader, an organisation that has officially been banned by the government? Thus it was all but inevitable that there was an uproar over Rana Sanaullah giving official patronage to Ludhianvi in the National Assembly.

Mr Sanaullah was on a by-election campaign for a provincial assembly seat in Jhang, but it cannot be said with certainty if he paid a visit to the seminary for electoral purposes or deep-rooted extremist linkages. Even if it was for purely electoral purposes,…

Baloch grievances

Since the inception of Pakistan, the federation has never respected the rights of the Baloch people and led them to a level of extreme frustration after which they felt compelled to take up arms. Despite the Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan Package announced by the incumbent government, the Baloch are unhappy. The said package was rejected ab initio across the board by the Baloch, be it the militant nationalists, the moderates, or the public. The reason was simple: no government has ever been able to exercise its writ over the province and the military establishment calls the shots.

President Zardari said the government will “initiate dialogue with exiled Baloch leaders after removing their distrust of the government”. With all due respect Mr President, removing that distrust may not be possible without initiating a dialogue with the dissidents. The president should initiate a dialogue right away with the exiled leadership and the Baloch nationalists in the country if he actually wants to …