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DAWN - Letters; May 14, 2002

May 14, 2002


Suicide bombing fallout

THE killing of 14 Frenchmen and Pakistanis in a suicide bombing attack in Karachi on May 8 is not merely ‘the fourth attack on foreigners in Pakistan’ as some officials have tried to explain it away. It has many ominous firsts.

For the first time, one of the most strategic defence projects of Pakistan involving the building of Agosta submarines for the Navy with French assistance has been hit.

Within hours of the bombing, the French shipbuilders, Direction de la Construction Navale (DCN) of the French defence ministry announced the recall of French naval workers from Pakistan. Their withdrawal in the midst of technology transfer process places a huge question mark over the completion of a strategically vital defence project of the Pakistan Navy.

Last time they pulled out their engineers and technicians was in the wake of the murder of Wall Street journalist Daniel Pearl. These workers returned to Karachi only recently after the French demanded and General Musharraf promised maximum security.

Indigenous building of Agosta submarines is a strategic defence project. Costing almost a billion dollars the project involves the building of three Agosta submarines in Pakistan in joint collaboration with French experts.

The decision to induct three subs in PN was taken in Sept 1988 but the deal was finally clinched in Oct 1994 after going through an extensive search for suitable subs in China, Sweden, UK and France. Capable of remaining submerged for longer duration in water and fitted with the most modern system of Exocet missiles and torpedoes the Agosta project is the centrepiece of Navy’s modernization drive.

But the most significant part of the deal related to the transfer of technology. The first Pakistani Agosta built in a French shipyard by the French and Pakistani technicians has since been completed and commissioned in the Pakistan Navy about two years ago.

The second submarine was to be built partly in France and partly in Pakistan with the final assembling taking place in Karachi by Pakistani engineers. The third one was to be built entirely in a Pakistani shipyard by Pakistani engineers with only remote French guidance and assistance.

The project therefore envisaged giving Pakistan the capability to make its own Agostas at the end of the construction of the three contracted submarines.

The immediate fallout of the bombing incident will be apparent in these areas:

First, the government will seek to find an answer to terrorism through administrative measures. At the NSC meeting on May 8, General Musharraf directed the law minister to expedite the setting up of anti-terrorist courts and the promulgation of more stringent laws to deal with terrorism and sectarian violence. In course of time the new administrative measures are likely to be used more against domestic political opposition than terrorists.

Second, there will be growing divergence between what the Pakistan government would want the world to believe and what the world would actually like to believe about the people behind the attack. Pakistan has already accused India. The French chief of staff has however already discounted this, saying that the ‘official’ French view was that Al-Qaeda had a hand in the attack. This divergence of perception is bound to strain the government’s ability to go along with the international community in dealing with international terrorism.



Planning sports events

THE New Zealand cricket team’s tour of Pakistan came to an abrupt and unfortunate end due to the tragic situation created by the bomb explosion on the morning of May 8 in Karachi. The team departed swiftly for home, quite justifiably, and was also saved from the scorching sun for five days on the National Stadium’s turf surrounded by empty stands of heat generating concrete.

The tour was ill-planned and certainly ill-timed, as this was no time to play a test cricket series. Apparently the PCB officials were getting desperate to make money to recover losses incurred last year. And they did not bother about anything except the bucks. Risk of injuries to players in this heat was not considered and no attention was paid to the likely poor attendance.

General Tauquir has been doing a lot of good work for Pakistan cricket and, I think, it was his enthusiasm that got the better of him. He was so keen to get some international cricket to Pakistan that he forgot to look at the weather charts of past years to find out the day temperatures at this time of the summer season.

It was a pity seeing the Kiwis and local players panting on the field, a condition observed by the match referee who mercifully allowed double the number of drink-intervals.

Our sports organizers have to understand that things are not normal in Pakistan these days and they have to be patient and must consider all other factors while planning international sports events.

To quote an example, the PCB has scheduled Australian cricket team’s tour during Sept-Oct this year, knowing well that elections are also planned in October. These two months are likely to have maximum election activity in the form of rallies, processions, political meetings etc. Such a climate can hardly be considered suitable for a good sporting activity involving foreign teams.

All plans for home series or ODI events should be shelved for the time being.



SBP’s strange directive

THIS is with regard to your editorial (May 5) and the clarification by Mr Syed Wasimuddin (May 9). In the clarification, the SBP said that the banks will accept worn, torn or defective currency notes, but not those with writings on them. In this connection, Ordinance No.XXII dated June 2, 1977, issued a quarter century back, was referred to.

The SBP has not explained as to why the banks themselves deface and write on the notes, which is against the said Ordinance which reads: “All those notes are illegal tenders which contain any inscription in any form.” The banks always do this on all the packs of notes with them.

I, as a stakeholder, would also like the State Bank of Pakistan to answer why the banks put five or six staples, particularly on notes of high denominations, which damage and mutilate them? On top of it, paper labels, carrying the stamp of the bank, are gummed on these packs. It is very difficult to take off the labels or the staples without spoiling the notes.

Why doesn’t the SBP ask the banks to stop this practice?

If immediate notice is not taken of this issue and corrective measures not adopted, the public might be led to believe that this is an indirect plan to demonetize currency notes worth billions of rupees at the cost of the public.




RECENTLY, a bank refused to accept a Pakistani currency note of Rs1,000 denomination, saying that it had been scribbled upon and according to a State Bank of Pakistan directive, such currency notes cannot be accepted.

The governor of the SBP should let us know what the bearers of such currency notes should do. After all, it is not the fault of the poor bearer if the currency notes have been defaced or scribbled upon. It is common knowledge that the bank cashiers and other officials are in the habit of writing on the notes and then the banks pass it on to the customers who, being unaware of the SBP directive, accept it in good faith.

Instead of taking such a harsh and public-unfriendly action, the governor should have taken the irresponsible bankwalas to task. A much more appropriate step would have been to instruct the banks to retrieve all such notes which are defaced or soiled, as and when presented at their respective counters by the people, without any kind of hardship or untoward action against them. Subsequently those notes could be replaced with freshly printed ones.



Heightened sense of insecurity

IT is not so much the killings that appal, but the chilling fact that the government has total lack of control over the situation. If the day passes without one being shot at, looted or kidnapped, it is only because one is not a worthwhile victim and not because there is any law enforcement.

The governments’ track record of ensuring protection of the lives and property of its people is abysmal. Consider just one days tally: 16 killed in a suicide bomb explosion, one religious scholar and his driver shot dead, soldier on duty outside the army house shot and killed, and three policemen on motorcycle patrol killed by four rag-pickers on cycles who also decamped with a police weapon.

It is all very well to point to the hidden hand but that cannot explain governments’ helplessness. What about our nuclear power status, our second-to-none armed forces, our strong military government and more elite forces and intelligence agencies than one can shake a stick at, after all we the tax-payers shell out money for their upkeep.

In return we have accepted the fact that benefits are not possible from our system but one cannot resign to murder and mayhem. To add insult to these daily killings, those who should be held responsible, instead have the gall to preach sermons and give advise on how we should face up to adversity.

Why is the police force in Pakistan not being reformed? Just so that they can muzzle protest, every government of the day has given them license to prey off the helpless. Doesn’t the President know, that police in Pakistan is a predatory force composed of heartless criminals who loot, rape and murder to divide the spoils in a tier system from bottom up right to the top.

Today one can be shot and killed in broad day light on the busiest thoroughfare and the police will not be able to trace the killer.

However, put a bottle of liquor or take a female companion in your car and within minutes a police patrol will be up your nose. It is not our morals but the protection of our children, very hard to come by earnings and our miserable lives that should be the clear responsibility of the state government.


Haripur Hazara

Shifting of archive

THE protests over the shifting of archives from Karachi to Lahore seem to be late by half a century or so. Sindh’s most valuable historical artifacts and manuscripts have already reached European and Indian museums and galleries, which include the statuette of the ‘Dancing Girl’ and the bust of the Moenjodaro priest, originally housed safely in the Lahore Museum till 1954.

The present assault on the Sindh Archive was initiated decades back, but was successfully thwarted by the former secretary culture, Sindh, Mr Hameed Akhund.

Earlier, the Institute of Sindhology’s takeover was also resisted by the university professors, writers and enlightened people of Sindh. Water is life, but art, heritage and history sustain our spirit.



Changing names

IN SPITE of all efforts to create harmony among the four provinces of Pakistan, it has not been possible to shed their parochial names inherited from the colonial days. This is apparent from the continued water sharing disputes and lack of consensus on building a storage dam at Kalabagh. For a change, let us resolve to change the names of our four provinces as under:

The Punjab which no longer has five rivers as two of them have been given over to India may be named as North-Eastern Pakistan, the NWFP as North-Western Pakistan, Sindh as Southern Pakistan and Balochistan as South-Western Pakistan. In this manner, we would be able to integrate the provinces better rather than naming them after so-called nationalities of Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, etc. The geographical connotations of different provinces ending in a suffix of Pakistan would at one stroke do away with the malady of provincialism often fanned by politicians to grind their own axes.

The name Pakistan would tend to create a sense of integration and cohesion among the people of Pakistan as against the concept of four nationalities existing in an ethereal Pakistan existing only in the federal area of Islamabad. Over a period of time people would tend to forget the ethnic origins of provinces and inculcate a spirit of unity as one single entity.



Phone complaints

THIS refers to your editorial entitled ‘Phone complaint blues’ (April 22).

The Fault Management System of Karachi has been operational since the last couple of years. This system has already proven its utility and its impact is evident from the decreasing trend of fault registration coupled with decreased fault duration.

In order to make it more effective, CLI based auto faults rectification is being introduced shortly. The PTCL will install CLI based fault rectification system in five exchanges (PECHS, Defence, New Karachi, Pak Capital and SITE) in the first phase. The above arrangement will reduce the complaints of fake clearance, in some cases by the PTCL staff.


Media Coordinator, PTCL,


Ancient glory

ACCORDING to a news report in the Times of India, an Indian scientist has claimed that Hindus had mastered the science of cloning humans in 3000 B.C.

I won’t be surprised if someone else comes up with the claim that Hindus exploded an atom bomb five thousand years ago, or that they were regular travellers to Mars and Venus before the Ice Age.



Missing paintings

THIS is with regard to the letter by Mr Inam Khawaja (April 28), on the missing paintings and mural of Sadequain displayed at the Karachi Airport.

According to Mr Khawaja, all these works of Sadequain are now in the house of a former DG, CAA, as private collection. I am thankful to Mr Khawaja for his concern and disclosure. I not only remember those paintings and the mural which was displayed at the old airport’s departure lounge balcony, but I also have their black and white photographs.

This is not the only incident of its kind; there are many more. Incidentally the other one I know of also involves the national air carrier. In 1967 the then head of PIA, Mr Asghar Khan, commissioned Sadequain to do a large painting, probably 6x10 feet or so, for the Paris office of the airline. The title of the painting was ‘Flight’.

This event was also covered by the national press. As far as I know, not only is the painting not in the Paris office but its whereabouts are also not known.

It may be in the house of some other MD or DG. All these art treasures are the property of the public departments for which they were painted and should be brought back and displayed at a proper public place so that people could see the invaluable art work of the country’s most renowned artist.

I hope the concerned authorities will take some action soon. This could be a fit case for NAB, as these art works are worth millions of rupees.



Contacts, not degrees

THIS is with reference to a letter ‘MBAs but no interview calls’ (May 4). I would like to bring to the knowledge of the writer that, these days, MBAs are generally facing problems in acquiring suitable jobs, irrespective of the institute from which they get their degrees.

I am an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration and I have been waiting for a good job opportunity for the last three years.

Actually what the job-seekers should know is that these days you have to pull the right strings in order to get a job. You need high social contacts and it is only through that that you can get into a good organization. I have scrutinized and found that most of the advertisements that appear in newspapers are just to complete a formality. The hiring is probably done before the actual interview session in which they do call some of the candidates who never seem to get the second interview call.

In many big companies, unqualified persons are holding positions that require at least a master’s degree while so many MBAs have become despondent in the search for proper jobs.



Cruel and unjust

HOW do Pakistanis bear the embarrassment of belonging to a country whose law sentences a woman to be stoned to death for having been raped? The enormity of this situation defies belief, let alone words, but I shall soldier on with whatever words I can muster, expletives deleted, to endeavour to jump-start some serious concern about the system of justice in Pakistan, and the plight of women victims like Zafran Bibi of Kohat in particular.

While Zafran languishes in prison whence Pakistani justice has condemned her to await death by stoning, experts wrangle over legal precedent, and whether or not she confessed four times without coercion to her ‘crime’. What else can they do in the face of such an iniquitous and barbaric law? Its very existence calls into question the sanity of Pakistan’s legal system, and heaps shame upon the country, whose national poet, Iqbal, called mullahism a disgrace to Islam; how much more disgraceful would he have found the offence of Zina (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979?

The invasion and trashing of the Supreme Court in Islamabad four-and-a-half years ago by the cronies of the then prime minister evoked insufficient serious shock throughout the nation to my mind. What a mockery it made of the institution of law! How grossly embarrassing for us all that its contemptuous mastermind now resides in airconditioned immunity with his Saudi friends, having been magicked out of jail, while Zafran Bibi faces execution.

Does anyone remember the Saima case? Are her monstrous parents thriving nicely up north, immune from any law against their crime? Meanwhile, throughout the land there rages a veritable contagion of dodgy gas-burners in kitchens which the law does not see fit to investigate, despite the dreadful deaths by burning of so many women, whose in-laws proceed with their lives, untrammelled and immune.

Please Mr President! Quit the funny turbans and commandeering of public transport for your free and fair purposes, and invest this country with a little dignity, by putting law reform high on your priority list, and drag Pakistan into at least the 19th century by removing, constitutionally, of course, mediaeval rottenness from the statute books. This may then invest the institution of judiciary with the respect and weight it needs to preclude anyone’s even dreaming of disrupting or escaping its just and protective workings.