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DAWN - Letters; September 12, 2002

September 12, 2002


UBL privatization

THE editorial ‘UBL privatization’ (Sept 8) though timely is long on rhetoric and short on facts. In this respect, you fail to mention its dismal sale price in relation to public investment of Rs49 billion in this bank since 1997.

It can be verified from SBP that in addition to its two subventions of Rs29 billion, the bank by way of past tax refunds and subsidies receive around Rs20 billion also for implementing so-called restructuring plans mainly for its staff separation. Hence, disposal of its 51 per cent stake for Rs12.35 billion is like selling family silver at half the price of its polishing costs.

When the banking industry was nationalized in 1974 in Pakistan, its raison d’etre was monopolistic concentration of credit in a few hands. It was claimed then that 97 per cent of credit was gulped by less than three per cent influential ‘robber barons’ of the time. In all fairness, to this extent nationalisation of industry did open some avenues to ordinary citizens.

It is true that experiment in nationalization was marred due to excessive bureaucratization and political interference in banks’ affairs. However, handing over banks to a new class of robber barons in utter disregard of national commercial interests is also rife with serious untoward consequences for economic stability of the country.

If nationalization per se were so baneful then the IMF and World Bank would not be in the public sector.

After all, equitable diffusion of credit is also an important element of a just democratic social order. Private greed as an engine of growth has delivered no perceptible growth in Pakistan so far.

In fact, only financial success story of our economic landscape is the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) which earned a bumper profit last year (US$50 million) that though was half of its profit in 1993 (US$100 million).

In my view, instead of whimsical squandering of national exchequer in this fashion and then dispensing with our national banks at throwaway prices, it would be much better if UBL, HBL and NBP are merged into one entity and then public stake therein is disposed of through national and international stock exchanges.

This has been done in the case of NBP successfully in the recent past. Once this process is completed in an orderly fashion then a competent management team could be evolved out of the stake-holders of the new bank under the supervision and guidance of the State Bank of Pakistan.


Former President, NBP,


Constitutional history

I AM gratified that Brig A.R. Siddiqi, the eminent political commentator, has read my article (Aug 13) and commented on it in his letter (Aug 30). The article ‘Constitutional history: achievements, failures and the way out’ drew lessons from our troubled constitutional history, and I have emphasized that a nation which does not learn from history, pays a higher price in a subsequent crisis.

Brig Siddiqi has asked me to explain my role as Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s law minister and principal legal adviser “through the highly controversial elections of 1964-65” and as to “what legal arguments (the) author must have marshalled to pave the way for the President (and his client) to contest the elections as the highest ranking soldier in uniform (as a field marshal)?”

I joined the cabinet after the elections of 1964-65. During those controversial elections, Sheikh Khurshid Ahmed, a politician-cum-lawyer (Muslim Leaguer), was the law minister as well as the polling agent of Field Marshal Ayub Khan.

Similarly, when Ayub Khan was designated as Field Marshal (probably in 1960-61) it was Mr Ibrahim from East Pakistan who was the minister for law. Therefore, I cannot oblige Brig Siddiqi by throwing any light on what went on in the inner cloisters of the presidency and the GHQ at the time. I was simply not there.

History has noted that I strongly advised the president against the curtailment of the powers of judicial review. Bar associations and members of the national assembly from East Pakistan supported me, and the opposition lobby included the governor of West Pakistan, the then attorney-general and some senior civil servants around the presidency.

Indeed, Brig Siddiqi, who was a staff officer at the GHQ at the time, would know better about the pressure under which the Filed Marshal was functioning.

Now, I, too, have a cavil with the last paragraph of Brig Siddiqi’s letter where he asserts that Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah chose to exercise his viceregal power vis-a-vis his prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan.

It may be appropriate to reiterate that in my article, I had stated that the Quaid-i-Azam refused to take oath of allegiance to the Crown and got the format of oath changed to an allegiance to the Constitution. Against this backdrop, Brig Siddiqi’s observation to the contrary that Jinnah chose to exercise viceregal powers does not seem to be a relevant comment.

As to the relationship between Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan, it was not only that of a constitutional governor-general and prime minister but of a mentor and ward. However, as a student of Jinnah, I do not have any evidence of the exercise of viceregal powers by Mr Jinnah vis-a-vis Liaquat Ali Khan, as alleged by Brig Siddiqi.



Third World’s problems

THIS is in response to the article by Eric Margolis ‘Argentina: from riches to rags’ (Sept 6). Commenting on the irresponsibility of the Argentine leaders, he says “their astounding foolishness and dazzling irresponsibility is a stark warning to us all.”

I think this statement smacks of blatant racism, much less of critical analysis, in the context of what Mr Margolis had to say earlier about the ‘haughty Argentines’.

Argentina in many ways suffered and continues to suffer the same problems which Pakistan faces right now, in more ways than Margolis’ erroneous assertion that the leaders of both these countries have the world’s worst jobs. For one, in both countries perennial militarism continues to dominate, although in Argentina it is to a much lesser extent.

However, if there is a crisis in Argentina or Pakistan or in most of the Third World today, it is not merely because the rulers of the Third World are incompetent, corrupt and seek refuge for their follies in nationalist mythologies like populism or fascism; it is in large part also because of the system of imperialism which is reflected in the everyday affairs of the world, as in the control of multinational corporations, the anti-poor policies of the World Bank and the IMF and the unilateral dictation or the world order by the United States.

And it is because of this crisis that left-wing ideologies are once more becoming popular with the oppressed segments of society; and there is more to left-wing politics than the simplistic notion of ‘leftism or dictatorship’ invoked by Mr Margolis. It is a sign of the times.

In the final analysis, while we concentrate our energies on the follies and misdemeanours of our own ruling classes, let us also not fall for the mythology that the fact of US imperialism is a conspiracy theory. It isn’t. The millions of dead and destroyed in Iraq, Serbia, Afghanistan, Sudan and Panama will readily testify to that.


Leeds, UK

When merit suffers

THIS is with reference to Mr G. Haider Bhurgari’s letter ‘Sindhi’s on merit’ (Sept 8). It reminds me of several such ethnic decisions depriving meritorious Sindhis of their rightful equal opportunities.

May I recall a leading Sindhi writer, Qamar Shehbaz who, in his scholarly discourse at Shah Latif University on the occasion of a seminar on Shaikh Ayaz, observed that an aging Sindhi intellectual said Baba, Sindh Kaaday Veendee meaning no one takes away Sindh from you.

Surely Sindh remains with the Sindhis but they are deprived of its natural resources and its youths are clamouring for manual labour jobs in coal and gas fields.

As regards the merit of Sindhis, I, as a university professor having taught at various universities, can say that all my former Sindhi students secured top positions at Lahore and other universities abroad. As artists/educationists, their talent is second to none but sadly their achievements and merit are not recognized at home, simply because of their birthplace.




AS Mr Bhurgari has described his case in his letter (Sept 8) my case, too, is no different. In 1999 I applied for short service commission in the Pakistan Navy for computer programmer. After clearing the ISSB held at Malir Cantt, I was recommended and my medical examination was held at CMH, Hyderabad. A cadet from Larkana Cadet College and I were two Sindhis. We were declared unfit.

Two years later, I appeared for the SPSSC (special purpose short service commission) in the PAF after clearing initial IQ, personality and medical tests. An interview before the selection board was held at the PAF Selection Centre, Karachi. I was declared successful and asked to submit my previous Naval candidature documents. I did so and then I received a letter that as I was declared unfit by the CMH Hyderabad under the rules, I cannot join the PAF.

This came as a shock to me. I consulted a surgeon in Karachi and he says nothing is wrong with me and he can certify that I am fit. Now everyone can decide by himself where is merit?



Peace and peaceful means

THE only way to heal the pain and trauma brought about by the September 11 incident is to address the underlying causes which led to it. Simplistic attempts to portray ‘the other’ as the ‘absolute evil’ and devoid of any human feeling or sentiment, will only serve to further obfuscate the factors which led to those attacks.

Peace, freedom, fulfilment of basic needs, democracy, human rights, and justice can only be attained by peaceful means. Violence is the antithesis of these values, and will end up producing more of what it seeks to eradicate. What is needed is not further destruction, but a positive, constructive programme to unite all the people of the world to live peacefully.

What is needed therefore, is a concerted action. People in every country, society and community in the world should join hands for the promotion of peace by peaceful means. If there are those in the world who are willing to die for what they believe in, we must show how much greater courage is needed to be willing to live.



Formula for democracy

“THERE is no fixed formula for democracy around the world. I am trying to tailor democracy according to the needs of Pakistan” says Gen Musharraf (Sept 6).

Had I not read this in Pakistan’s most respected newspaper, I would regard it as misinformation spread by the General’s worst enemy because asserting that democracy has no formula is a big joke.

Democracy has a simple formula and it is that form of government where the people alone are sovereign and are governed by their representatives freely elected by them in free and fair elections.

The sovereign are only subject to a Constitution and laws made by their representatives with their approval. This is irrespective of the form of democracy — say parliamentary as in Britain, presidential as in America or their combination as in France.

Types of Constitution do not count. Britain has no written Constitution and America has a three page constitution. I can assert it with fullest confidence because I lived and worked in Britain in 1950s and was a political party worker, then I had a chance to travel extensively in other democratic countries.

I would also add with even more confidence that in a democratic country, every government servant is a public servant for he gets his wages or salary from tax payers, i.e. sovereign’s money, irrespective of very high office which may be equivalent to central secretary or defence services chief in Pakistan.

However, even if government may be functioning badly in a democratic country, no public servant dares even think of removing the government. It is called high treason in the International Law. Only the sovereign can it in the next elections if the people disapprove the government’s performance.



Stopping visa issuance

THE superpowers of the past enjoyed monopoly over profit and power, but as long as they kept their doors of learning open to the weaker nations, they endured.

The United States is the sole power today which until last year gave visas generously to the Third World aspirants who wanted to receive higher education in that country. But this year, it seems that the US government has decided to go the way of the declining powers and has completely banned visas for our students and doctors who were selected by various teaching and medical institutions of that country, depriving them of all chances of improving their qualifications. This decision is bad enough for us but, in the long run, it will be worse for the United States itself.

The United States is requested to revise the decision about non-immigrant visas and allow qualified personnel from poor countries to visit the US to enable them pursue higher studies.



Need for cardiac hospital

THE incidence of heart diseases in Pakistan has been on the increase over the years. Facilities for its treatment are also growing but perhaps not at the same rate.

In the Punjab, more attention to the treatment of heart diseases was given when Governor Jilani himself got a heart attack.

He ordered a cardiac ward along with a coronary care unit in every teaching hospital of the Punjab.

He also initiated the setting up of a full fledge, state of the art cardiac hospital in Lahore. This hospital, the Punjab Institute of Cardiology, has all the facilities for all types of heart related treatment such as angiography, angioplasty, stenting, cardiac surgery, pace maker, and intensive care for serious heart patients. Another such specialized cardiac unit in the Punjab is functioning at the CMH, Rawalpindi.

But if anyone in the south of the Punjab, which is quite an extensive area, gets any serious illness related to the heart, he or she has to travel a long distance to Lahore.

Besides the inconvenience and fatigue it causes, such a long travel by road or train takes much time resulting in considerable delays even in cases where medical attention is needed without delays.

It is, therefore, felt that there is an urgent need for another centre for heart diseases somewhere in southern Punjab, maybe at Bahawalpur or Multan.



Revision of curricula

I WAS much glad to read in Aug 31 issue that the University Grants Commission has revised the curricula of 47 disciplines under a programme lunched by the ministry of science and technology.

I request federal minister Ataur Rehman to kindly consider a revision of the curriculum of BS (Physical Therapy) also so that we can study more advancements in the field of physical therapy and be able to compete with the specialists in the developed countries.



What’s in a name?

THIS is with reference to letter, ‘What’s in a name’ from Mr Viqar Zaman (Sept 9). I think there is something in a name.

In my neighbourhood, previously no child could be found having the name Osama. Now there are three. Rumania has framed a law disallowing any child to be named Osama. The rule was framed after 9/11 when a Roman Catholic woman made a request for it.

Above all, ask the Muslims living in the USA. They now know so well as to what is there in a name.



War strategy and wrong impression

TO set the record straight regarding the erroneous impression that the military high command was responsible for the lapses in the conduct of war, allow me to quote briefly from Gen Mohammad Musa’s account of the 1965 war — My Version:

•An impression has been created that the GHQ did not oppose the timing and the circumstances of the raids, or visualize that the raids would escalate into a general war.—(P.XV)

•It is generally believed that the enemy attack on Sept 6 took us by surprise.—(P.XV)

•After the Rann of Kutch skirmishes, our forces were moved to their forward concentration area from their peace-time stations.—(P.30)

•As tension grew, the field army was poised to occupy battle locations at short notice.—(P.30)

•By Sept 4, I had reviews with all formation commanders their operational plans.—(P.30)

•The foreign office insisted that we must not take any steps, including cancelling of leave, that might provide India with an excuse to attack.—(P.30)

•Despite this, the GHQ sent out the signal on Sept 4 for defensive measures to be taken, including replacing of mines damaged by heavy monsoons.—(P.31)

•On the evening of Sept 4, while working in our Control Room, my staff and I got the news on the AIR (All India Radio), that the Indian PM had told the Lok Sabha of indications of Pakistan army moving forward from Sialkot towards Jammu. Since this was not factual, it appeared that India, because of the imminent threat to Akhnur, was preparing ground for attacking across the international border. I, therefore, directed the Chief of General Staff, without consulting the government, to get the army moved to its battle locations.—(P.47)

It is obvious from the above that the Indian army was able to make initial inroads into Pakistan territory, giving rise to misconceptions, because of the constraints put on our armed forces by the foreign office. Gen Musa may not have been a very dynamic army commander but he was a simple, straight soldier. By very definition, such people are not given to fabricating and concocting stories.

The reason why the 1965 war has not been declassified after so many years is not to protect the army command but to cover up what went on higher up. It should not be too difficult to get Gen Musa’s version either corroborated or dented by retired army officers from that period.

I hold no brief for army interference in the political process, nor the use of the military to achieve political objectives, as in Kargil, but that does not mean that due credit should not be given to them in their noble task of defending the country.