DAWN - Letters; May 18, 2002

Published May 18, 2002

Who’s behind the terrorist attack?

Dawn editorial of May 9 hoped against hope that the agreement signed with some American intelligence agencies for training Pakistani sleuths in modern investigative methods would prove of help in tracking down the criminals behind the present wave of terror.

The US intelligence is already assisting the law enforcement agencies in Pakistan to track down members of the Al-Qaeda network and other religious extremists, then why couldn’t the sad event of May 8 be forestalled?

The event leads me to believe that the security cover for the French personnel was simplistic in nature.

How have the law enforcement agencies assumed that the 1974 Toyota Corolla car (J-6560) was carrying unknown kind and quantity of explosives and rammed into the large Naval bus carrying French engineers and tore it apart?

The publicized intensity of explosion and the pictures of the wreckage suggest that high intensity explosives around 10 kg could have been implanted in the lower middle portion of the Pakistan Navy’s bus and the car being too close bore the brunt. Had the blast been according to the leading hypothesis, both the suspected suicide-bomber and Corolla’s engine would have shattered beyond recognition leaving no clue whatsoever.

It is also not astonishing that the three suspects who are said to have taken delivery of the ill-fated car on payment of Rs100,000 from mechanic Arif on behalf of its owner Aslam have not yet been found. One of the three suspects might have died in the blast and two others plus Aslam seem to be evading arrest, presumably to avoid intense grilling at the hands of the law enforcement agencies.

Nevertheless, the modus operandi is multifaceted. The President has rightly termed this as a conspiracy against the country and the nation. It is definitely a well-organized plot to drive a wedge between Pakistan and France, which was strengthening our naval defence system and in the near future may have provided Mirage fighter aircraft as well.

With the commissioning of the second Agosta-90B submarine, the construction of which was in the final stage, and completion of the third piece, Pakistan would have achieved naval superiority in the Indian Ocean after having failed in the 1980s to achieve strategic air superiority in the region.

Instead of the most sought-after F-16 we got US wheat and chicken-feed. Now the construction of Agosta-90B has been suspended for the second time in the wake of terrorist attack.

What brains are behind the May 8 terrorist attack, your guess is as good as mine.



Retirement option

ACCORDING to the present service rules, a government servant may opt for retirement after putting in 25 years of ‘pensionable service’. If, for some reason, he wants to take retirement after 20 years of service, he will need to resign as per service rules i.e. leave service without getting any of the benefits available at retirement. Giving 20 years of one’s prime of life with no return is grossly unfair.

The government, on the other hand, may compulsorily retire (fire) an employee, with applicable end-of-service facilities and pension benefits, after 20 years of service. This can be done on the basis of one of several possible reasons such as being superseded for promotion twice, poor confidential reports, unsatisfactory performance, and so on.

So, an efficient and hardworking government servant is denied this facility of opting for retirement after 20 years of service which automatically becomes available to a corrupt or inefficient employee.

With this unfair policy, the government is forcibly retaining an efficient and honest employee, who wants to leave the service after 20 years. At the same time it encourages the same employee to change his ways so that he may fulfil the conditions of compulsory premature retirement.

This ‘one-way’ rule is morally and, perhaps, legally unjust and needs to be modified. In fact, the government should encourage employees to seek retirement after 20 years by giving additional benefits as is done by many organizations in the form of ‘golden handshake’. By doing so it will create vacancies for the younger generation who after graduation are unable to find employment and many in sheer frustration are forced to indulge in criminal activities.

The President is requested to instruct the policy-makers to change this ‘one-way’ rule to a ‘two-way’ rule.



Spare us, please

THE May 8 terrorist attack was indeed very shocking, more so because most of the individuals were French, our guests who had come to help us. I can’t find appropriate words to condemn this barbaric act but I am sure all Pakistani citizens are deeply grieved by this incident.

There are some points that come to mind. First, why should the navy keep such individuals in hotels where they are exposed to serious security risks, especially in the present day geopolitical environment. If the objective was to provide special food, drinks and comfort then this could have been arranged at so many other safe places like the naval houses.

Second, the system of placing a security guard with a gun in a vehicle can only frighten a pedestrian like me but will not obstruct the commission of a heinous act by a hardcore terrorist. Why wasn’t proper escort provided in this case?

Third, we have a joint staff headquarters, where statistics about logistics, war efforts and deputations abroad are kept, but it doesn’t appear to exercise any active control over the affairs of the three armed services. It is time that some matters pertaining to security, training and morale be looked into by this Joint Services Headquarters.

Fourth, we talk so much of checks and balances, but at times it seems that there is no balance even if the checks do exist on paper. It has not been many years since the Navy lost an Atlantique.

Fifth, the recent theories postulated and presented repeatedly to this poor nation about pushing the services chiefs in the imbroglio of political structuring and economic development should be immediately discarded.

Let them concentrate on their own jobs, please! We have had enough of experimentation on our bodies and souls.



KESC’s performance

ABOUT four years ago, the control of the KESC was handed over to the army. It was then claimed that the army would put the KESC on the right track within one year and that the consumers would get better service.

During these four years, the KESC has resorted to increases in tariff by over half a dozen times. It claims to have recovered billions of rupees that were lying in arrears. It has also been extracting huge sums of money from its consumers in the name of development charges and security deposits.

Yet instead of any improvement in the service, the consumers are faced with frequent breakdowns and loadshedding. Fluctuating voltage has resulted in the loss of costly equipment and appliances of the consumers. And the shareholders’ losses are also swelling.

Who’s responsible for the consumers’ misery and the loss to national productivity? Surely those who are managing the KESC.

It is time that President Musharraf took some action. All those responsible for this sorry state of affairs in the KESC, including the top man, should be relieved of their positions and subjected to punitive action.



Elections and referendums

A LOT has been written against the referendum which was conducted by the election commission of Pakistan. The EC has four serving judges of the superior courts and is headed by the retired chief justice of the Supreme Court.

It had the services of all sessions judges of the country and hundreds of additional sessions judges and civil judges. Any criticism of the conduct of referendum amounts to an indictment of the whole judiciary. Our politicians and some journalists involved in this exercise should ponder over this aspect.

During the last 32 years, I have voted in five elections and two referendums. During the elections shamianas of political parties outside the polling stations with their workers sitting in each, gave the look of activity in the area; but inside the polling stations I had never seen more than a few voters.

During referendums there were no shamianas outside but the number of voters inside the polling stations were about the same as during the elections. This time, however, the number of voters was somewhat higher in about half a dozen polling stations that I saw during the day.

Let the people who criticize the conduct of the referendum gracefully accept that they were wrong.



Misspent funds

Jail Road from Mozang Chungi to the Sherpao Bridge in Lahore was re-constructed and widened during the last political era (1997-99). Two new bridges, one on the Lahore canal and the other on the Gulberg drain were also part of the widening project. Concrete walls were provided on both the bridges.

I happen to commute on this road twice a day. A month ago, I was surprised to see labourers demolishing the concrete walls, which were in excellent condition. Later, pipe railing were put up in place of those walls. The other day, I saw tile work in progress under the railings as an attempt at ‘beautification’. I do not find any justification for this make-break strategy of the civic authorities of Lahore, costing millions of rupees to the state exchequer.

On the other hand, Dawn (May 2) carried a photograph of a canal bridge without any fence on Rajoa Road in Chiniot, posing serious threat to users. The money wasted on Jail Road could have been utilized on places like Chiniot in Punjab.

Would the Punjab governor take cognizance of this extravaganza?



Question for NAB

RECENTLY it was reported that many pro-government politicians were forming a coalition to contest the upcoming elections.

The name of Sherpao, ex-chief minister of the NWFP, was also among those in the list. But isn’t he the one who jumped bail and fled the country and lived comfortably in London for almost two years and has now returned in time to climb onto the bandwagon?

I want to ask the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) if the court proceedings against Sherpao would continue at full speed or, as it has been happening in this country in the past, the case would be shelved once he is elected?

If convicted, will the new elected government have the moral courage to send him to prison to serve his term or, also as experienced by us previously, would it arrive at some sort of a deal?



Lack of coordination

FOR the past many years, Pakistan has been facing many set-backs resulting from sectarian violence, terrorism, feudalism, drug trafficking and political killings.

The government has done a lot, no doubt, but moving one’s feet and not changing one’s location, is no work. In fact, we never addressed the issues seriously. After Sept 11, the issue of terrorism has become all the more important.

Much has been written and done to give it a stop. But we are just like the man moving his feet fast but not advancing, and losing his energy in the process.

I have a question to ask: are our intelligence agencies, the police and all other security agencies mutually coordinated? Is there any base, a strong one, for all of the above to benefit from one another?

If the answer is ‘no’, then we’ll never be able to cope with terrorism, even if we get lots of sophisticated weapons and sensors from our foreign friends.



Salt miners

KINDLY refer to the news item entitled ‘Salt Range miners most accident-prone, says expert’ (May 15) with reference to a seminar addressed by the undersigned and arranged by the Sustainable Development Planning Institute (SDPI). I would like to mention the following points:

The topic of the seminar was ‘Conditions of safety in the mining industry of Pakistan’ and as such my views were about the whole mining industry, not specifically focused on the salt range. The conditions of safety, especially for coal mining, are almost similar for the whole country. Therefore, it is not correct to mention only one area that could hurt the feelings of concerned people of the area.

It is the Mines Act 1923 (partially revised in 1973), instead of Mines Act, 1973.


Chairman, Co-ordinator, Seminars, SDPI,


The Swat stupa in shambles

I WANT to draw the attention of the concerned authorities towards the deteriorating condition of an archeological monument of the Buddhist era and the biggest stupa of the subcontinent, which is situated on the main G.T. Road, near Ghalegay, Mohallah Shingardar, Swat.

This stupa was constructed by Uttarasena, an ancient king of Swat in the seventh century AD to enshrine his share of relics of the Buddha.

Due to its historical importance, this stupa attracts a great many foreign tourists visiting Swat. But it is very sad to note that due to negligence on the part of the tourism and the archeology departments, no maintenance is carried out and the structure is getting dilapidated day by day.


Ghalegay, Swat

Farewell to music

ON May 11, the Governor of Punjab, Khalid Maqbool, watched a play, Phantom of the opera, at Alhamra. The drama had music and some light dancing as well. The artists were amateurs, students from different educational institutions. That says enough about our government’s policy on music.

Mr Salman Khaliq’s fears as laid down in his letter ‘Farewell to music’ (May 7), were totally unfounded. He need not panic as the announcement about the ban on musical functions in colleges etc was perhaps only a contrivance to lure the right wing voters for the referendum.

However, Mr Khaliq’s assumption that the ‘falsehood’ of music being ‘haram’ has been invented by Dr Israr Ahmad, the Islami Jamiat-i-Talaba and the Taliban, is not correct.

Actually the injunction about the undesirability of music comes from an infinitely greater authority. There are ‘ahadith’ to this effect.




IN the last but one para of my article published on Sunday May 12, on the editorial page, the printed figure 60 is in fact 600.

The para would thus read: “Sindh, indeed, has a share in the services — both civil and military — much lower than its population. But for that it has to blame itself more than the centre or the other provinces. In the Federal Public Service Commission’s competitive examination of 2001, the candidates from Sindh numbered only 21 in a merit list of 600, and that includes the candidates from Karachi which has an English medium school round every street corner and a glut of universities. What goes wrong and where is for the leaders and educationists of Sindh to ponder.”



Promotion of IT

THIS refers to an article captioned ‘IT: whither and for what?’ (May 5) and a letter to the editor captioned ‘Promotion of IT’ (May 10).

The Ministry of Science and Technology is grateful for the positive comments made by the two writers about government’s efforts to promote Information Technology in the country.

But it should be understood that IT is not being developed at the cost of development of basic sciences.

The government is fully conscious of the importance of basic sciences and the pivotal role which universities play in the socio-economic development of a country.

A massive programme for the upliftment of basic sciences has, therefore, been initiated. The Scientific and Technological Research division has launched more than 150 programmes to revise curricula, increase PhD output, strengthen and upgrade R&D organizations, build capacity and strengthen the technological base of the country.

As a result of four HRD programmes launched by the ministry, the PhD output is being enhanced from 60 per annum to 400 per annum. The ministry has spent an amount of Rs698 million on the strengthening of science faculties of 26 public sector universities.

A programme has also been initiated to strengthen and upgrade all R&D organizations in the country. Science curricula of 48 disciplines are being revised with the help of the University Grants Commission and the science faculties of all the public sector universities are being strengthened. Two programmes have been launched for career development and research support of scientists and technologists with allocations of Rs28 million and Rs30 million respectively.

Under a major programme ‘S&T for Economic Development’, 27 projects have been launched which aim at adding value to agricultural products, strengthening the technological base of the country, export enhancement and import substitution etc.

Its objectives also include creating a better technology-oriented environment by providing opportunities to scientists, entrepreneurs, technologists etc, through public and private sector collaboration in enhancing their capabilities and the use of indigenously developed technologies. Under this programme, R&D institutions in the public sector are collaborating with industrial units in the private sector for the production of high value-added goods.

The ministry has also formed core groups in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and water resources to recommend steps to be taken for further improvements in these fields. The impact of these programmes may not be fully visible at the moment, but these projects would go a long way in building and strengthening the scientific and technological base of the country.


Director, Public Relations, Ministry of S&T,




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