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DAWN - Features; October 6, 2002

October 06, 2002


PHF’s step motherly treatment of Karachi

By Ali Kabir

KARACHI which was once known as the gateway to Asia and emerged as the trend setter of Pakistan in social, cultural, economic, political and sporting fields after independence has been rendered redundant by external as well as internal forces.

Whereas the economic activity got a severe setback after 9/11, Pakistan became a target of the sporting world as foreign teams refused to tour Pakistan for security reasons.

As if it was not enough, the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) took a callous approach towards the national game by practically abandoning the Hockey Club of Pakistan (HCP) Stadium, the only facility of international standard available in the metropolis, which in future will hardly be able to host any international events.

PHF surrendered the open space in front of the HCP which was being used as parking lot, a much required facility for both spectators as well as participants during any international competition.

The HCP, was the brainchild of late Gen Mohammad Musa, former Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army after the Rome Olympics triumph. Gen Musa, who was the president of the PHF had the farsightedness of having the facility of international standard and acquired the land owned by the Cantonment Board.

Now there is no parking place for spectators as the open space was handed over or taken over by the Pakistan Navy and residential apartments have been constructed for Naval personnel.

The present HCP management has rented out all the space available around the stadium for commercial purposes and one can see motor workshops flourishing around the HCP. The Astro Turf has worn out and it is just not suitable to hold even a national event.

The HCP has lost its utility and even if the PHF tries to lay a new Astro Turf, it will be simply waste of money as the place is simply unsuitable to hold any international or national event.

The only course left for the PHF is that it should surrender the present site and request the Cantonment Board to allocate some other site for the construction of a new stadium.

The old structure has outlived its utility and some of the stands have decayed and at least one stand has been declared dangerous for lack of maintenance.

At present there is just one Astro Turf in the city at the UBL Sports Complex which is holding all the local events. The Pakistan Customs Sports Complex Astro Turf has also completely finished and now it is not even good enough for practice. Pakistan Customs because of financial constraints cannot afford to lay a new turf. The Astro Turf at the Steel Mill is just good enough for holding camps as it is out of reach for a hockey fan living in city.

The PHF because of its negligence or callousness has deprived Karachiites of having any international hockey tournament. Now it is a challenge to the City Government which can build a hockey stadium of its own or face the problem thrust upon it by PHF.

The PHF has committed the blunder of dumping Karachi, which has produced a galaxy of players of international repute and will continue to play its role in every sporting era whether anyone likes it or not.

If the PHF thinks that they can raise Pakistan team from players from upcountry only they are sadly mistaken, Karachi’s importance cannot be ignored by individuals having no farsightedness or narrow minded people.

It will be in the fitness of things that the challenge of neglecting Karachi is taken with all the seriousness by the City Government and all the resources should be pooled to have a hockey stadium of international standard.

Selling a dream to hide a nightmare!: SOCIAL THEMES

By Nusrat Nasarullah

FOR ALL THE repeatedly reassuring stories that have somewhat enigmatically begun appearing on the possibility of a decrease in the prices of drugs and medicines, the common man reacts with anger and his or her perception remains cynical and disbelieving.

It is an insult to one’s intelligence and understanding of our times that prices in this particular sector can decline. “What rubbish”, remarked one citizen, who dismissed the very thought that prices in Pakistan can ever slide downwards, permanently.

It makes you truly think about this very crucial subject: the price of medicines and the cost of health-care, quality and availability being other related issues.

Let us refer to two specific stories, the first one “Drug prices may be revised,” and this is how it begins: “The government will shortly issue an SRO to permit the pharma industry to increase or decrease prices with a cap on maximum retail price.” Globalisation?!!

Now this is where the common man (and he does exist, and is not as elusive as some of us are inclined to assume) begins his questions. Who will fix an honest maximum retail price? and what is it to stop the pharmaceutical industry from selling only at this price? Somehow the image of the manufacturer in this country is not a consumer-friendly one. It is always believed that the producer, the manufacturer, the seller are always fleecing ruthlessly the buyer, the common man. Somehow the perception is that prices always rise, and that the margin of profit is always irrational and directed against the customer, consumer and the buyer.

Now this particular report reveals that “under the new procedure, the prices can be reduced by informing the Ministry of Industries in writing. In such cases, the prices can be increased to the current level without seeking prior official approval ... so far the prices have been increased or decreased with the approval of the Ministry of Health. The decision signals the government’s cautious move towards a market-oriented price mechanism.” Long live the IMF?

Another reports says: “Maximum retail price of drugs reduced,” which began thus: “Following approval of pharmaceutical policy and successful negotiations with the Ministry of Industries, Pakistan Pharmaceutical Importers Association (PPIA) has decided to reduce the Maximum Retail Prices (MRP) of drugs.

“Once again the typical consumer response to this prospect is that it is, too, good to be true.

What then is the truth about the prices of medicines and the costs of medical care in this city, and in this society. Can the people ever afford to pay for medicines and medical care bills in a context where there is a crippling inability to pay even for the rising costs of utilities and foodstuffs; or education, or housing, and so on. One need not try and answer such questions.

It is only a waste of time. The fact of the matter is that people in most income groups, save those at the very top, or those who have companies always paying for their bills, are unable to have regular decent medical care, if at all, due to rising costs. The heart of the matter is that as the state and the government gradually, and consistently withdraw their role or reduce it substantially, in the health sector, the common man is feeling the pinch as never before. It is hurting more with the passage of time.

What compounds the problem is that the awareness of the common man on the need for decent, dependable and affordable medical is growing, and his ability to handle it the way, he would want to is dwindling.

He cannot afford even the present cost of medicine, the related cost of medicare. Private medicare is growing, as that is the way market economies go, and Pakistan’s common man is faced with a challenge. How to pay his medical bill.

We all know such people who have no problems when it comes to prices. Any prices. But there are far more people, the majority, who are unable to pay their bills in this city, when it comes to medical expenses.

They borrow, they sell off valuables, they deny their families other essentials, and so on, when it comes to hospital costs or the “exorbitant costs” of medicines.

Are the costs of our medicines high, and unreasonably. I spoke to a very senior professor, head of an institution in town, on this theme. He summed it up by saying that the Pakistani consumer today has a choice. He can buy the expensive foreign (imported) medicine, and or he can buy the same medicine produced locally at a lower price (which means that there is a difference in the efficacy of the medicine?) He said that today in Pakistan about 60 per cent of all medicines cost more as compared to other countries in this region; about 30 per cent cost the same and ten per cent cost less. Interesting to say the least.

This enables one to comprehend a bit of what the pricing scenario is like vis-a-vis medicines. What a colleague says on this theme is that “it is hard to understand that the same medicine sells at different prices at different shops, in the same locality in Karachi.” Another colleague listening to us on this theme perceives that with an ongoing (all-round increase in the price of everything else, from the smallest item of daily use to the “biggest” there is bound to be an increase in the cost of medicines. And he is worried that if this is not allowed to happen, we will have to live with the phenomena of regular shortages and black-marketing.

On the prices of medicines, there is a room for plenty of sadness and lots of tears. Images of individuals and families who are suffering as they cannot afford to pay for their illnesses and diseases come to mind, of family members who cry out in such scenarios that they live in virtual hell, as they see the agony of patients and experience the trauma or humiliation when they can’t pay for medicines again, and again. What made revisiting this theme necessary was the fact that someone was trying to sell a dream to hide a nightmare.

NA-259: settlers hold the trump card: CONSTITUENCY PROFILE

By Saleem Shahid

QUETTA is a multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and multi-religious constituency. Whosoever wins here, he will be representing the provincial metropolis.

For the first time Quetta is made a separate NA constituency. Earlier, it was part of the bigger constituency of Chaghai-cum-Quetta.

Eighteen candidates are in the run, 10 of them are holding party tickets and the eight others as independent candidates. However, the main fight is expected between four candidates: Mahmood Khan Achakzai, chairman of the Pakhtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party; former senator Mian Saifullah Khan Piracha (PPP); former governor Syed Fazal Agha of the PML (Q); and Maulana Noor Mohammad (MMA) of the JUI . Sardar Fateh Mohammad Hasni, a former federal minister, was returned twice from the old and undivided Quetta-Chaghai constituency. He won the non-party election in 1985 and later, as an IJI nominee, defeated his rivals in 1990. He joined the PPP at a later stage.

Hafiz Hussain Ahmed of the JUI won this seat in the 1988 election and Mahmood Khan Achakzai was elected in 1993 with the support of the PML (N).

In that electoral fight, Sardar Hasni was the PPP’s candidate and had secured 38,640 votes as against Achakzai’s 47,559 votes. In the 1997 election Sardar Atif Sajrani (PML-N) had won this seat because the settlers once again chose to oblige Nawaz Sharif, though Mahmood Achakzai, Sardar Hasni and Hafiz Hussain were also in the contest.

The situation has now, however, changed. Achakzai is no more an ally of the PML (N), and this time he is contesting as a joint candidate of the PMAP and the Balochistan National Party (Mengal). Saifullah Piracha and Maulana Noor are familiar to the people of Quetta as each of them had been elected to the provincial assembly once. Fazal Agha, ex-governor of Balochistan and former deputy chairman of the Senate, is contesting, for the first time, from the Quetta constituency on the PML (Q) ticket.

A former PPP stalwart, Yahya Bakhtiar, is also in the field as an independent candidate while the PML (N) has given ticket to advocate Ayaz Swati. Khuda-i-Noor, secretary-general of the JWP, is also in the run. He is a graduate from a seminary.

The candidates who are contesting election from NA-259 belong to different ethnic groups. Mahmood Achakzai, Fazal Agha, Khuda-i-Noor and Maulana Noor are Pakhtoons, and Saifullah Piracha is a settler.

Mahmood Achakzai is depending on his party vote bank, which has been reduced because of delimitation of the old Quetta-Chaghai constituency as a sizable Pakhtoon-dominated area of the Quetta district has been included in the NA-260 (Quetta-Chaghai-Mastung) constituency . However, as a joint candidate of the BNP (Mengal), he is expecting votes from the Baloch-dominated area of the city. He will also get some votes from the Hazara tribe in return for the support the PMAP has promised a Hazara candidate in the PB-II (Quetta-II) constituency which has Pakhtoon voters.

However, political observers think that Pakhtoon vote bank would be divided among the Pakhtoon candidates, which may help Maulana Noor and Saifullah Piracha. The JUI’s voters include not only the Pakhtoons but also the Baloch and the settlers. The JUI voters are intact and have never deserted the party. Thus Maulana Noor would get solid votes of his party while other component parties of the alliance would also cast their vote in his favour.

Saifullah Piracha and Fazal Agha both expect to get the votes of the Hazara tribe. Hazara women voters had specially been helpful to the People’s Party in all the previous elections. Noor Mohammad Saraf was twice elected MPA from this constituency. The PPP, which has fielded candidates for six provincial assembly seats in Quetta district, has also solid support of the settlers. These PA candidates who have their influence in different areas may be of great help to Saifullah Piracha .

A PML (Q) stalwart, four-time MPA Saeed Ahmed Hashmi, has been running the election campaign of Fazal Agha. The PML (Q) is also using the Hazara card to win over the support of the Hazara voters. Dr Ruqiya Hashmi, the wife of Saeed Hashmi, belongs to the Hazara tribe. With her husband, she is working for Fazal Agha in the Hazara-dominated area. She has good influence as her NGO has launched many a project for Hazara women in the area.

However, Sardar Saadat Ali Hazara is also in the run as an independent candidate while Mir Taj Mohammad Khan Jamali, a former chief minister who is a Millat party candidate, has refused to withdraw in favour Fazal Agha, demanding that the PML (Q) should withdraw in his favour. In this situation Fazal Agha faces a difficult task.

‘Biradarism’, labour class dominant in NA-122: CONSTITUENCY PROFILE

By Amjad Mahmood

BIRADARISM and labour class will play a major role in NA-122 comprising slums perhaps more than any other constituency in the city.

It comprises Ittehad Colony, Pakki Thathi, Samanabad, Rehmanpura, Nawabpura, Chauburji Quarters, Ichhra, Rasool Park, Ali Park, Islamia Park, Bagh Gul Begum, Fazalia Colony, Shah Jamal, Ahata Moolchand, Gurunanak Lanes, Shadman, GOR-I, Mayo Gardens, Gulshan Park, Bibi Pakdaman, Railway Station Kutcha Abadi, Railway Officers Colony, Railway Quarters, Garhi Shahu, Larex Colony, Survey Colony, Kishaurnagar, Bahadur Colony, Bank Colony, Railways Loco and Carriage shops, Nike Colony, Jamila Colony, Moghalpura, Gopalnagar, Crown Park and Peoples Colony.

Kamboh, Arain, Rajput, Kashmiri, Gujjar and Moghul are major castes in the constituency that faces multiple problems like dense population in disarrayed localities, choked sewers, noise and air pollution, lack of parks and sport facilities, and increasing commercial activities.

Of the 11 candidates in the run four —- Tehrik-i-Insaaf chief Imran Khan, former IG police Chaudhry Muhammad Amin of the PML-QA, Chaudhry Ghulam Qadir of the PPP and Sardar Ayaz Sadiq of the PML-N —- are in the forefront.

Chaudhry Amin, uncle of former Olympian and five time MPA from the area Akhtar Rasool, belongs to Kambohs and is likely to lose Arain biradari votes except for those committed to the PML-QA. He, however, is leading his rivals by spending more on banners, posters, stickers, and paraphernalia, besides relying on the official support in the form of uplift schemes in some low-lying localities.

Mr Amin has proudly mentioned himself as former IGP perhaps to raise his political stature, ignoring the fact that people usually abhor police.

The PTI has focused on opening election offices and a door-to-door campaign for the success of its party chief who is concentrating on the Mianwali constituency where he has more chances to win. His election campaign here is being run by party’s secretary-general Meraj Muhammad Khan and Punjab president Mian Sajid Pervez.

It’s minority wing is active in motivating over 15,000 Christians to vote for Mr Khan on the ground that he had been supporting their plea for joint electorate. The party also hopes that the division of Kamboh and Arain votebank among Mr Amin, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq and Chaudhry Ghulam Qadir will benefit its chairman.

The biradari factor is visible in PP-148 comprising areas like Ichhra, Samanabad, Rehmanpura localities, etc.

In the PP-147, that also falls in NA-122, the biradari factor is not strong and instead class conflict is more evident because of labour colonies.

The PTI has ignored both these factors while selecting its candidates for the two provincial assembly seats. More surprisingly, it has picked a woman, Ms Saloni Bukhari, for PP-148 where the presence of a hefty religious votebank is an established fact.

The PML-N had directed its Punjab information secretary Zaeem Husain Qadri to file his nomination for the area. But for some reasons he could not do so and the party had to put up Sardar Ayaz, who is a nonentity like his PPP rival Ghulam Qadir to the electorate.

He, however, is confident that he will win because the Muslim League has never been a loser in this constituency, especially when Jamaat-i-Islami’s Mian Maqsood Ahmad, who belongs to a leading Arain family, is there (PP-148) to woo religious as well as Arain biradari votes.

While in PP-147, Prem Union of railway workers might secure him a few thousand votes in railway colonies and the Moghulpura area.

Mian Aslam Iqbal, former Nazim of Samanabad union council and an independent candidate from PP-148, is also supporting Mr Sadiq. Mian Aslam also enjoys a strong votebank for he, as Nazim, has executed numerous development projects in the area from personal pocket.

Mr Qadir is a former PPP MPA who joined Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehrik in 1990 when the party denied him a ticket in the elections. After losing the polls, he rejoined the PPP. But party workers are not enthusiastic about him.

He is being supported by Sohail Malik, former People’s Students Federation leader, in PP-148. But in PP-147, the party has awarded a ticket to Basir Chand who has recently returned from abroad after a long break and does not have roots as far as party workers are concerned.

However, the party will benefit from the Christian votebank as the All Parties Minorities Alliance has announced its support to it, while it also enjoys the confidence of the labour class dominating PP-147.