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DAWN - Letters; November 26, 2001

November 26, 2001


Child labour elimination plan

IN Pakistan, about 25,000 children have been reportedly saved from undergoing various forms of labour, under a child labour elimination action plan.

The plan aims at the immediate withdrawal of children from various forms of labour, progressive elimination of child labour from all economic sectors and preventing the entry of under-age children through universal primary education. ILO-IPEC is collaborating with the government in this noble cause.

The saved children include about 7,000 in the football and 500 in the surgical industries of Sialkot, 10,000 in the carpet industry, 1080 in exploitative / hazardous labour and the rest in informal sectors like working in the restaurants, tea-stalls, shops, etc ( Nov 17). It is a good beginning if all these children have been rehabilitated. However, a lot more needs to be done, as the saved children constitute only a small proportion of the affected children in the country. The High rate of population increase coupled with rising poverty due to economic slowdown, are further complicating the matter.

ILO-IPEC is said to be facing two main problems. First, the low capacity of implementing agencies, especially NGOs, for delivering the assigned mandate and for following procedures of financial management. The other problem was a lack of sustainability of the work initiated under the programme. These are serious issues and need urgent remedial measures. The government and the ILO-IPEC are urged to consider the following:

Weaknesses in the implementation capacity of agencies might be rectified and if need be, the existing institutional arrangements and the criteria for selection of the implementing agencies may be improved.

More financial resources may be allocated so that the programme continues, especially with a view to put to better use of the experience gained and the lessons learnt. The success of the programme is directly linked to the success of the overall poverty reduction measures in the country. Funds earmarked for poverty alleviation may be partly diverted to fund the elimination of child labour.

The provincial governments may be helping the programme by inspection and imposition of fines on the factories employing under-aged children. However, in the absence of a suitable rehabilitation / education plan, it is feared that such children once dismissed from the proper factory, might be forced to seek employment in smaller outfits with worse environment.

Until there are adequate resources to implement the rehabilitation and education programme properly, the government might consider binding the employers of the under-age children to improve working conditions and to collectively arrange to impart of free technical training to such children for a few hours every day.



Compulsory Zakat deduction

THE scheme of compulsory Zakat deduction was introduced by the late President Ziaul Haq. According to the scheme, Zakat is deducted from the Savings Bank Accounts having a deposit exceeding Rs 5000 on Ramzan 1, which is declared a closed holiday for banking transactions.

Initially it was applicable to all Muslim citizens of the country. But soon after, the Shia community was exempted from this deduction on the submission of an affidavit declaring oneself to be a Shia. This prompted many Sunnis to take advantage of the exemption by making false declarations.

The practice continued until a decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, announced on March 9, 1999, which also exempted the Sunni community from the compulsory deduction. However, the production of an affidavit has continued to remain necessary for members of both the communities.

The point for consideration now is that when all members of the Shia and also the Sunni community have been exempted from the compulsory deduction of Zakat, then what is the logic for continuing the scheme of compulsory deduction and the necessity to submit an affidavit on stamp paper costing Rs 40 ? There is no reason why we cannot go back to the pre-Ziaul Haq days when there was no compulsory deduction of Zakat at the banks.

Moreover, it is best to leave the fulfilment of religious obligations to the individuals themselves. The concept of compulsion is repugnant to Islam.

It is hoped that the present regime will look into this and withdraw the scheme.



Foreign media men in Pakistan

MORE than 1300 foreign journalists are in Pakistan and reporting the war in Afghanistan since the strikes began on Oct 7. Dozens had arrived in Pakistan even before the hostilities broke out. “They began arriving here soon after the Sept 11 attacks,” an official reportedly said, adding: “While they are doing their professional work, most of them do not know the area or the cultural, political and other dynamics of either Afghanistan or Pakistan. The result is obvious: misreporting, even deliberate disinformation in certain cases.”

International media men are in fact everywhere, though the central points are Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta for obvious reasons. While in the beginning these journalists roamed freely picking up and sensationalizing news, some reports by major TV networks forced the information ministry to slap a ban on journalists’ visits to Afghan refugee camps and areas adjacent to the Afghan border.

A few weeks ago, a TV channel aired news of the arrival of dozens of injured Afghans from Jalalabad at a local hospital in Peshawar. The fact was that these people were Pakistanis and were injured in a road accident. “Yes, we do exaggerate because we don’t understand many things here,” a European journalist was quoted as saying.



Company Secretaries qualification

THIS is with reference to the proposed amendments in the Companies Ordinance, 1984, which were announced by the Chairman, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), through a press conference held by him on October 24, 2001.

In prescribing the qualification of a Company Secretary, the SECP has made a serious omission by excluding the “Chartered Secretary” who is a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries And Managers of Pakistan.

Company Secretaryship is a specialized field. Chartered and management accountants and degree holders do not qualify for the post of Company Secretary. In the UK, Chartered Secretary is appointed for the post of a Company Secretary. In Pakistan professional accountants are appointed for the post of Company Secretary because of non-availability of Chartered Secretary. But this was hitherto done as a consequence of circumstantial compulsion.

I would, therefore, suggest that SECP may review their decision in the larger national interest and may include in the prescribed qualification of Company Secretary, the name of members of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries of Pakistan.



Infringement of traffic laws

WITH the ever increasing vehicular traffic, especially in the provincial capital, there are very frequent traffic blockades. The reasons are : poor lane discipline by the commuters, all types of vehicles on the same road including animal and hand-driven carts, the police controlling only the motorists and ignoring the pedestrians and cyclists who are the main violators and a host of other reasons, causing minor and serious accidents every day.

The traffic police, apparently, are trying their best to ensure smooth flow of traffic but have failed miserably in enforcing traffic laws. Violations by the green plated cars, government officials and well connected people are commonplace.

Then, most mini buses, vans and wagons are owned by police officials and are allowed to ply in any manner they like — so the reckless driving and the hazardous practice of picking up and dropping passengers any where at will.

Finally, the TEPA has built nice side roads, making an island with the main crossing so that the commuters who wish to turn left on red signal could do so easily without disturbing the forward going traffic. But in the absence of any kerb on this lane, all forward going traffic clutter up making 4 to 5 lanes on a road of 3 lanes at the red signal, thus blocking all the traffic that wishes to turn left.

If one finds a space to turn left, one gets upset on the sight of a van standing right on the exit of this island road picking up or dropping the passengers. The traffic police completely ignores these violations.



Bus fares

I take the opportunity to bring it to the notice of the Lahore Regional Transport Authority the fact that all the companies operating buses in Lahore have been issued “monopoly routes” and no one is there to compete with them.

Some four months ago, the fares were increased without seeking public opinion through the print media. Although fuel rates have been decreased twice, the enhanced fares have not been brought down proportionately to compensate the daily travelling public.

It appears that the authorities concerned have vowed to work for the benefit of the transport companies and not to allow any relief to the masses which is quite unjustified and against the principles of good governance.

It is, therefore, requested that the position may be reviewed and the fares may be suitably brought down within the reach of common man.



Shalimar timings

PASSENGERS travelling to Karachi from Multan are mostly businessmen, workers and their families. It is felt that it would be more convenient to them if the timings of Shalimar Express are interchanged with those of the Zakariya Express because though the condition of the Zakariya Express is very poor, its timings are excellent.



Ads on Indian channels

THE views of Mr M. Saeedullah in his letter (Nov 10) regarding Pakistani ads on Indian TV channels were amazing, as their endorsement by M. Mohiuddin Azfar (Nov 17).

Why should Pakistani commercial companies be blamed for advertising on the Indian channels? In fact, it is we who have forced them to do so. Most of us watch Indian TV channels during the prime time. So what’s wrong if the advertisers want their message to reach us through those channels. And then some of the satellite channels charge much less than the PTV. So, the advertisers have as much right to choose their medium for advertisements as we have to switch channels by clicking the remote control.

The viewers who are planning to boycott the products advertised on Indian Channels cannot justify that as they too are not being patriotic by tuning in to the neighbouring country’s channels.

As mentioned by Mr Saeedullah himself, we are dependent on foreign channels for entertainment and the coverage of global affairs. PTV is lagging far behind in the quality of its programmes. It’s a fact and we should face it. After watching Indian movies on the TV or on the VCR, blaming the advertisers for going international is mere hypocrisy.



Junagadh’s accession

THIS refers to the letter regarding Junagadh by Haji Essa Katchi (Nov 20).

I don’t know why people are confusing the date of Junagadh’s accession to Pakistan. I say again that it was August 14/15, 1947 and not September 15, 1947. The state administration had asked the constitutional expert, Sir Zafarullah Khan, to come over and advise it about the legal position vis-a-vis its accession to Pakistan. He was busy at the time arguing Pakistan’s case before the Boundary Commission.

However, he found time to come down on 13th or 14th August, and advised that Junagadh was fully within its right to accede to Pakistan.

The Instrument of Accession was signed the same day by the Nawab and I gave it for printing in the state gazette (Dastur ul Amal). I received its printed copies on the night between August 14 and 15 and went round distributing them.

So far as Mr Abrahani is concerned, it was he who delivered it at the Pakistan Foreign Office in Karachi. He had no other role in the whole affair.



Mother’s milk

THIS has reference to Miriam Habib’s report, “Mother’s milk is best” in (Nov 19). I suggest that Dawn do a profile on the paediatrician and researcher who is actively engaged in the field.



Fire in Karim Centre

ON November 20, around 200 shops in the Karim Centre, Zaibunnisa Street, Saddar, caught fire which broke out at the electric meter room due to a short circuit. The fire which began around 1:45 am, could be put out by the evening, damaging or destroying goods worth millions or rupees.

Such incidents happen quite frequently. And the reason is almost always an electrical short circuit which is the result of poor maintenance of the electric wirings.

To eliminate such incidents, the associations of the buildings should take appropriate measures to avoid a short circuit. For example, they should undertake timely replacement of the old electricity wires by the new ones.

They should also arrange fire extinguishers at every entry and exit point and also the training of the night watchmen in handling a fire.



National Art Gallery

THIS refers to Muhammad Yasin’s write-up “PNCA and NAG construction” (Nov 20). He deserves appreciation for his love for the arts and concern for the National Art Gallery.

Apathy towards the National Art Gallery or the arts in general, is an expression of our national lifestyle represented by the ruling elite. Since decades the NAG is in a private house and the PNCA offices are housed in the rented basement of a shopping area of Islamabad. Still-born Suhail and Pasha Co. project remained in incubators for a decade and dedicated designers may have to show further patience for many more years to come.

Till that time I suggest that the PNCA and the NAG may be shifted to a portion of the white elephant called the Convention Hall, as the amount sanctioned for the Art Complex was diverted to that holy project by Benazir. Understandably, the political appointees did not protest. Hope the new DG, PNCA, would succeed in his efforts.



Staff salaries

YOUR attention is invited to a news item (Nov 12). It is clarified that the salaries of the staff of the National Programme for Family Planning and Primary Healthcare Punjab, have been disbursed through bank transfers.

Similarly Rs. 8.5 million have been placed at the disposal of the executive district officer (health) in Punjab to meet the expenditure on contingencies like POL, repairs and maintenance, etc.


National Programme for FP & PHC Punjab,


Pakistan’s policy pays dividends

THE historic opportunity to absolve Pakistan of the perception of a fundamentalist state came when the US-led coalition declared war against terrorism and a handful of religious parties called support to the Taliban as Jihad. The initial demonstration and show of force displayed by these religious parties seemed to be shaking the confidence of the government, but it stood firm and gradually succeeded in containing the surge of these protests with a sense of caution, restraint and skilful handling.

The policy of allowing a free press to function as a strong alternative to democratic dispensation paid dividends to the Musharraf regime. The free press in Pakistan generally supported the government’s bold stand on the Afghan situation. It helped educate the silent majority about all aspects of the Afghan crisis and made a clear distinction between the national interest and the misplaced zeal of the extremist religious parties.

For the first time in the history of Pakistan, decisions were taken in the light of larger national interest. Pakistan not only earned international acclaim but also succeeded in outmanoeuvring those who strove to paint Pakistan as the creator of the Taliban. India tried in vain to link the freedom struggle in Kashmir to the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. The electronic media in India, its large press and their representatives in Europe and America put embarrassing questions at the Pentagon and the State Department briefings to defame Pakistan. It also tried to implicate Pakistan in the terrorist attacks on the Srinagar Assembly building. But Gen Musharraf quickly discounted the impression and dissociated Pakistan from any act of terrorism anywhere in the world, including the Indian-held Kashmir.

The fury and fervour of pro-Taliban demonstrations in Pakistan has gradually died down. This has not gone unnoticed. In Newsweek (Nov 26 issue), Fareed Zakaria wrote: “Despite the fact that Mullah Omar and bin Laden both explicitly called for the toppling of President Gen Pervez Musharraf, despite support for their cause from Pakistan’s fundamentalist political parties, despite Pakistan’s close ties to the Taliban, the response from Pakistanis was a few scattered protests that never gained force. Musharraf remains popular, and in fact his standing may have risen for steering the ship of the state so cleverly. The extremists had hoped that the country would shut down for a day in sympathy for bin Laden. It never happened”.

This is a tribute to the sagacity and rational thinking of the people of Pakistan on issues that threatened to shake the country. The fundamentalist image of Pakistan has withered away. This is vindicated from the statement of the US ambassador in Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain. She was quoted as saying that Pakistan is a good place for US investment.

The economic scene is showing signs of recovery. The country witnessed the highest ever rise in its foreign exchange reserves which went up to the tune of $ 4 billion — unprecedented in the history of Pakistan. The West and the United States have realized that the fundo image of Pakistan was as illusive as the so-called invincibility of the Taliban in Afghanistan.