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DAWN - Features; July 5, 2002

July 05, 2002

A bitter reality

“The year 1947 has no significance for me and other tenants of Peerowal,” grumbles Darshan Masih, an old tenant at Peerowal farms of the Punjab Seed Corporation. And this is, of course, a bitter reality anyone can feel after a visit to the area.

Spread on an area of more than 7,000 acres of agricultural land, Peerowal farms are the part of agriculture-rich Khanewal district. Landless people of the area started labour to make the virgin but deserted tracts of Peerowal cultivable in early years of the 20th century. Self-dug wells were the only source to irrigate the thirsty land.

The then government of British India introduced the project of Lower Bari Doab canal. Cultivators did free-of-cost service and labour during the digging and construction of the canal hoping that it would bring prosperity to their lives. But, for the Peerowal tenants that was a fallacy. A Britisher, Sir William Roberts, who earlier served as director, agriculture, Punjab, resigned from the principalship of Lyallpur Agriculture College and set up an office of the Manchester-based British Cotton Growing Association (BCGA) at Khanewal. The then government leased out him the Peerowal land for three terms of 20 years each in 1920 at the rate of Rs 1 per acre per annum. He also established a firm namely Robert Cotton Association (RCA) in order to market cotton seed and lint cotton produced at the farms.

When the independence dawned in 1947, the BCGA was enjoying its second term of lease of the Peerowal farms. Tenants again hoped that they would also be among the beneficiaries of the independence from colonial era. But there was no independence for them even in the following 12 years.

In 1959, Ayub Khan introduced land reforms in the country which left BCGA with only 590 acres of land, while rest of the about 6,400 acres of land was given under the administrative control of the provincial agriculture department against the wishes of the tenants.

In 1964, the Peerowal tenants were given ownership rights but the honeymoon lasted for only six months as their ownership was cancelled. Tenants say had the land not been leased out to the BCGA, its occupancy rights would have been granted to them in 1921 as the same were awarded to their fellow tenants of adjoining villages which were not in the administrative control of BCGA. The rights were given in some of the villages where people were involved in anti-social activities under the ‘criminal tribe scheme’ to provide them an opportunity to leave the crime world. But, the Peerowal tenants were not that too fortunate to have some kind of criminal record.

After the establishment of the PSC, the Peerowal farms were given under its administrative control in 1976. This was the beginning of ‘neo-colonialism’ for the tenants. The cooperation came into being with an aim to ensure quality seed for various agriculture produces. But with the passage of time, it became ‘sahookar’ for the tenants and a source of profiteering for its officials and area landlords, who, after becoming the registered growers of the corporation, had entitled themselves to fetch extra price against their farm produces in the name of premium.

Diminishing incomes and inflated exploitations left no option for the tenants except to chant the slogans of ‘ownership or death’.

Though, the affairs at Peerowal were not tolerable for the tenants ever since the PSC took over the administrative control, matters came to the boiling point with the appointment of an area landlord, Brig Amanullah Khan Niazi retired, as the managing director of the corporation some two years ago. The first thing he tried to do was to change the status of the tenants to lessees.

Tenants smelt a conspiracy and refused to accept the status of lessees. Instead, they launched the drive to claim ownership rights. The right which successive governments were denying due to the presence of powerful lobby of landlords in power corridors who were fetching extra prices from PSC as its registered growers.

Repeated announcements of top government functionaries, including President Gen Pervez Musharraf and governor Khalid Maqbool, that the state land would be given to their tenants added fuel to their struggle for ownership. At a referendum-rally at Khanewal, the governor specifically uttered that the demands of Peerowal farm tenants would be addressed according to their expectations.

But what they got in response was the institution of more than 400 criminal cases against them, stoppage of irrigation water to their fields when they sowed their own cotton crop this year and threats of evacuation. Police raids and atrocities are the order of the day.

How feudals and the PSC officials think about the tenants was summed up by the Peerowal farms incharge Aslam Nasir. Talking to this correspondent, he said “some of the tenants’ children have passed a few classes in schools and now they are instigating their parents against the PSC.”

Mr Nasir has mostly served at Peerowal during his 26-year-long association with the PSC and has been the overall incharge for the last more than 10 years. Enormous authority over the highly vulnerable tenants is enough to make him think this way.

Tension at the farms eased the other day when ready-to-take-action heavy police contingents had to withdraw from their positions after the Lahore High Court provided a reprieve by granting status-quo to the tenants against any government action. But the storm is not yet over. Mood at the top of PSC hierarchy is spilling hot. The corporation MD addressed a press conference at the Peerowal farms and used a harsh language against the tenants. Big landlords and beneficiaries of the corporation belonging to Khanewal district are appearing in television programmes to support the PSC by painting a horrible picture if the government grants ownership rights to the tenants. Their logic is that ownership to the tenants would create a problem of pre-basic and basic seed of cotton, wheat and other crops.

To this, the tenants reply that they will have no objection after getting the ownership rights to sign an agreement with the corporation to supply it quality seed on the prescribed terms and conditions as the registered growers.

The tenants are showing unshakable unity for their cause to liberate themselves from colonial and post-colonial masters as both the forces very much existed at Peerowal in the form of BCGA and PSC, respectively.

God-given knowledge

By Jafar Wafa

THOSE who believe in a transcendental Creator — a Being that is real but beyond perception by the five senses — also believe that He has sent Prophets to guide them to the right path. This belief is not shared by the atheists who reject the Creator out of hand and also by those who, like T.H. Huxley, call themselves ‘agnostics’, as they consider all non-material phenomena apparently unknowable and, therefore, unbelievable.

Opposed to the ‘agnostics’ are the Gnostics, or Urafa (Singular Arif) in Arabic, who recognize the existence of the creator by other than empirical, or scientific, process. They perceive the truth not by intellect but by intuition, the power of the mind developed through spiritual enlightenment. But the most authentic knowledge of the unseen and unknown is that of the Prophets of God as its source is inspiration from the Creator, or direct Divine revelation.

No sacred writing or religious scripture except the Quran, claims to contain the exact words of God and to be error-free and undoctored. One of the proofs that the source of the Quran is Divine revelation can be found in the references to the creation of the universe and mankind, occurring in the Book in various contexts. As will be seen, these facts are being vetted by modern science instead of being contradicted.

No other sacred scripture, or even secular writing pre-dating the Quran describes, in non-mythological manner, how the universe came into existence and how a human body comes into being. So, it is evident that the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him), having no earthly source of information regarding this subject, received this particular scientific knowledge, like so many other kinds of knowledge found in the Quran, through ‘revelation’ alone.

The Quran poses a question to the lay and the learned alike: “Were they created out of nothing or are they themselves the Creators? Or, did they create the heavens and the earth? Nay, they are sure of nothing” (52:35-36). Another query follows: “Does not man realise that We have created him from a drop of seed? And yet he poses as an open opponent and has invented similies for Us and has forgotten his own creation” (36:77-78). The only sensible answer is that He who created the universe created mankind too.

Now, coming to the Quranic account of Creation. We are informed that the Devil (Iblis) “was one of the Jinn” (18:50) and that “Allah created humans from decayed, moulded clay, while He had, earlier, created the Jinn from essential fire” (15:26-27). It is thus obvious that the Jinns and the humans were created from different kinds of matter, as they came into existence during different periods of Creation, the former having come into being much earlier than man. The word Jinn, according to Marmaduke Pickthall, means “elemental spirits” to whom as to mankind the Quran came as a guidance, both being equally accountable for their actions in their life time.

Regarding humans, the Quran says on another occasion that “a period of time came upon man during which he was a thing not worth mentioning” (76:1). So, this is a clear indication that while the ethereal Jinn were created from “essential fire” in the early primordial stage when, perhaps, cosmic fire raged all around, man was created from clay, much later, when the earth and, possibly, other planets had emerged from the fiery void.

Regarding cosmological facts given in the Quran let us refer, as the starting point of discussion, to the verse that “the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them and made every living thing (on earth) of water” (21:31). Then a concise description of the construction of the earth and the rest of the universe is given thus: “He created the earth in two days, placed therein firm mountains rising above the surface and blessed it and measured therein its sustenance, in four days, equal to the needs of all who will seek it.

Thereafter, He turned to the heaven when it was smoke and made both (the smoke in outer space and the earth) integrate. Thereafter, He ordained seven heavens in two days and inspired in each heaven its mandate and decked the nearer heaven with lamps and rendered it (the nearer heaven or the sky) inviolable” (41:9- 11). It may be clarified, that, in the above verses, ‘days’ means not earthly days but cosmic days “whereof the measure is a thousand years of what you people reckon” (32:5 & 22:47).

Piecing together the above hints, one can form an idea of how the universe, as we see it today, came into being. These hints suggest that: in the beginning, there was nothing but smoke, or nebula, as postulated by the eminent cosmologist, Laplace. According to him, the breaking up and later contraction of the nebula led to the formation of the Solar system, — “the earth and the lamps in the earth’s sky” — in varying cosmic periods; the solar system perhaps having been formed prior to the formation of the galaxies or “seven heavens, each with its own mandate.” The “nearer heaven” particularly is mentioned in the above verse as having been made “inviolable”, or safe from radiation. Modern scientific research has also come to similar conclusions.

As for the creation of humans, the relevant passage from the Quran says: “Of course, We created man from a product of wet earth. Then placed him as a drop of seed in a safe lodging. Then We fashioned the drop as a clot that clings (alaq), the clot as a little lump, the lump as little bones, then clothed the bones with flesh and then produced it as an entirely another creation” (23:12-14).

No better comment on the above description can be made than what Dr Maurice Bucaille, an eminent medical scientist of France who converted to Islam and authored the book, “The Bible, the Quran and Science” observed during his talk regarding this book in a ceremony held at London, in June 1978, under the auspices of the Islamic Council of Europe: “It was certainly not a faith in Islam that first guided my steps but simple research for the truth. This is how I see it today. It was mainly fact which, by the time I had finished my study, had led me to see in the Quran a text revealed to a Prophet.”

Living in Batista’s Havana: CITYSCAPES

By Fahim Zaman Khan

SO the city administration has once again encroached upon a little more fundamental rights of people living and visiting Karachi. This time it happened to be the Clifton Cantonment Board, one of the 26 so-called land-owning agencies that decided to swiftly move to barricade the service lane of Beach Avenue between Kublai Khan and Village restaurants in the name of charged parking usurping people’s right to even cruise along the beach. Charging for parking at the most accessible stretch of seaside in the port city may be repugnant yet barring Beach Avenue service road from being driven upon that was designed and originally constructed by the Karachi Development Authority years ago and not by some cantonment board is surely most reprehensible. Neither the arrogant authorities bothered to invite public objections nor publicized their plan before enforcement, resulting in numerous altercations and disenchantment in the general public that continue to return completely alienated.

One need not go far from the beach to witness the performance of the Clifton Cantonment Board that has a history of violations and inefficiency, complacency and collusion visible over a major chunk of the city. The complete footpath at the junction of Chaudhry Khalique-Uz-Zaman Road and Chartered Accountants’ Avenue, barely a stone’s throw away from Teen Talwar, has been encroached upon by a carpet seller that has fenced it without any remorse, converting it into his private property and added to the carpet shop/showroom. Even a blind man can see that the footpath has been consumed behind those high grills. But he is not the only one that has slithered through the authority’s claws of mud. In fact most of the owners seem to have gulped the footpath on the two roads without the slightest compunction. If that was not enough one of the neighbours has laid his 1000 KVA diesel generator on Chartered Accountants’ Avenue.

The Clifton Cantonment Board is not the only one violating the norms of civilised governance. Karachi’s City Government and most of the town administrations seem to be enjoying similar violations. The city’s large middle-class likes to visit markets like Delhi Colony on the other side of Chaudhry Khalique-uz-Zaman Road every Sunday for meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruits.

A little over hundred shops cram up around Luqman Nishtar Road and three of the adjoining streets of that residential area that has been ruthlessly converted into a commercial centre. The area presents a picture of total anarchy marred with chaotic traffic, debris, patharas, flies, cats and K-9’s during day time especially on Sundays. None of these highly encroached upon and run-down streets may be wider than 20 feet. Katchi Abadi authority and its dubious regularisation criteria may be responsible for uneven street widths, crummy shops and some of the ensuing chaos. Yet some credit must be given to the city’s local government that has allowed the traffic on Luqman Nishtar Road that used to be once a one-way road, amongst so many other violations, to continue to ply from both directions that frustrates many drivers as they confront each other head on. The triangular ‘No-Entry’ sign was initially defaced and has now been changed to ‘No Parking’.

Supposedly there is prohibition against slaughtering of animals in the city, which is only allowed at abattoirs far from Delhi Colony for a good reason. Qualified veterinarians supervise the abattoirs. The illegal slaughtering can cause epidemics amongst man and beast. Even for commoners Foot and Mouth disease and Mad Cow disease may not be Latin anymore. Many law- enforcement personnel and municipal functionaries may be visible at any given time at a market like Delhi colony. Yet an umpteen number of butchers may be seen slaughtering right in front of their shops at Delhi Colony just like any other happy market of the city.

Karachiites witnessed state terror on loose last week. Furious City Government employees covered by a large number of law-enforcement personnel descended upon the encroachers in the Lyari River during the day time and bulldozed scores of houses and abodes on its banks and bed. While those deprived people and their action committee tried to appeal to the higher-ups that they were supposed to meet the National Highway Authority and city government officials to discuss and mutually agree upon a design that would create minimum disruption in the lives of those people. The convener of the Action Committee was arrested twice and had to spend several nights behind bars but the commando action continued till enough land was generated to satiate NHA for the time being.

Meanwhile, the city continues to appear as if under siege. There are law-enforcement personnel picketing at every corner supplemented by pick-up loads of police and other law-enforcement personnel cruising all over the city. As if that was not enough, many thoroughfares as well as by-lanes have been closed across the city by authorities using seafaring containers or through simple barricades. Most Karachiites fail to comprehend the direction or the logical end of this unending phase in their lives. The city may have an elected local government system yet its infrastructure continues to falter while the mandarins of the city bureaucracy conjure another rabbit out of their hat on another bridge. Unfortunately the city Nazim-e-Alla seems to have restricted himself to his office offering cheques for Rs50,000 each to the Lyari River affecttees that come weeping to complain about the high-handedness of the authorities during anti- encroachment action for paving way for the under construction expressway. They in all fairness have been demanding the city government and any other authority that may lend a listening ear, to opt for a design that caters to the needs for the port traffic, channelise the storm water drain and if possible let them live in peace.

PCB considers itself above board

By Ali Kabir

President Gen Pervez Musharraf, immediately after taking over the reins of the government, had publicly vowed to pursue a policy of transparency, accountability and good governance in every walk of life to elevate the country’s image.

He was the first general to declare all his assets at the time of taking the leadership of the country. His intentions were clear from day one. He has lived to his commitment till this day. However he has not been able to achieve all that he had promised on day one not because his priorities have changed but simply because some of his trusted men have not been able to come upto the expectations of their leader.

The president who in principle believes in devolution of power had to put faith in his trusted colleagues. It does not imply that his men are involved in corruption or dishonesty. It is simply because they think themselves above board and do not go through the set drills in running the organisation which is against good governance and they think that they are not accountable.

The president because of the past legacy by virtue of his office became the Patron-in-Chief of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Since Lt Gen Tauqir Zia was made head of the PCB the president actually did not interfere in the cricket affairs and in fact cricket could not be his priority as the whole structure of the country was in shambles and on the verge of collapse. And to add to Gen Musharraf’s problem was the World Trade Centre scenario which totally diverted his attention. He had little time to focus on internal issues. Cricket was just a petty affair if it is seen in the overall national context.

Under the circumstances one least expected from the president to keep a careful watch on cricket affairs. As the president hardly had any time to attend to cricket affairs the PCB took full advantage of the situation and started behaving in a strange manner keeping transparency, accountability and good governance aside.

The PCB started behaving as a state within a state. Now it is well over two years when the present set up came into power. To this day it has failed to get the board accounts audited by an independent auditor.

The PCB is the richest sports organisation in the country and a lot of money is coming through advertising, ICC share, some funds was released by their Indian counterparts which they had withheld from the 1987 World Cup jointly organised by Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka.

There is no doubt that because of terrorism Pakistan cricket has definitely suffered financial losses but whether it is in loss or profit, it should be put in black and white and according to the PCB constitution the accounts should be audited annually to keep the finances transparent.

It has been gathered from reliable sources that the CBFS organisers of the Sharjah tournaments have not paid the PCB the appearance money for the last two events. If the money has been received the financial transaction is not known. One hopes that the rumour is not correct and if the PCB has received the appearance money it should be properly entered in the accounts books.

The PCB, it is reported while supporting Tangier to be declared an international cricket centre did not care to take the advice of the foreign office as it may create problems for the government in future if the new venue creates some problem to the Government of Morocco. No sports body has the authority of dealing on behalf of Pakistan at any international forum.

The PCB made a lot of hue and cry and started negotiations with the world’s leading sports channels. It was stated time and again by the PCB chairman and its director Brig Muhammad Rana that bids for the next 5-year term will be opened in Sharjah on June 4 and the highest bidder will be awarded the contract when TWI’s term expires.

One failed to understand why at all the bid was to be opened in Sharjah when TEN Sports owned by Mr Abdul Rehman Bukhatir the pioneer of desert cricket and vice-president of the CBFS was himself a competitor.

If everything was transparent it should have been held in Pakistan. If the event managers were not willing to come over to Pakistan because of security reasons they should have been dropped. By acceding to event managers demand, the PCB in fact accepted that Pakistan was a high risk country. If event managers who are paid to conduct an event refuse to come to Pakistan how the PCB can think of cricket teams coming to Pakistan for a series. It was a policy matter which was definitely not in the jurisdiction of the PCB.

With all the statements and irregularities in policy matters the bid which was to be opened on June 4, 2002 at Sharjah has not been made public. It gives reasons of doubt about its transparency.

The PCB which was being run in the past with hardly a dozen people besides groundsmen at different Test centres now has an army of employees with fat salaries and the blue eyed boys are hand picked.

The only additional work that the present setup took was construction of infrastructure at many centres which deserves commendation as no previous board had cared to provide even the basics for the promotion of the game. If the board hired some men to look after the development of infrastructure the money was well spent.

But the same cannot be said about the hiring of the unwanted paraphernalia which has now become a burden on the board and has already started pinching it.

It is strange that the PCB boss, condemned one of its employees who was dealing with publicity of the board, at a Press Conference but when it decided to launch the austerity campaign dismissed only one employee of the board, who was posted in Karachi which is the biggest sports and economic centre of the country. If someone is condemned by the head of the institution he should have been the first to go. But the wire pulling and transparency claimed by the present setup failed to shake the morale of the self proclaimed champions of good governance, transparency and accountability.

The PCB showed favouritism and succumbed to recommendation instead of merit when out of the blue it recommended the name of Wasim Raja, former Test cricketer on the panel of international referees with no previous experience.

This is supposed to be one of the most prestigious appointments made by any country’s board. Waseem Raja has never been a good disciplinarian. In his cricketing days he was the one who was fined by the then Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) for misbehaving in a hotel and the board had to pay the damages.

Pakistan had some highly respected match referees like Javed Burki, a retired bureaucrat, Zaheer Abbas, Intikhab Alam, Col Naushad Ali who earned good reputation and Talat Ali.

All such deals speak of transparency, good governance and accountability of the board. It would be better if the board is run on proper lines and save the president from any undue embarrassment.