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DAWN - Features; November 26, 2002

November 26, 2002

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Triumph of the pragmatists: DATELINE ISLAMABAD

By Aileen Qaiser


IF the Burmese political leader Aung San Suu Kyi had behaved as pragmatically as many politicians in Pakistan are doing, the Burmese military could have civilianized its rule by now, and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her followers in the National League for Democracy would be ruling under some kind of shared political setup with the military rather than being shunted in and out of jail or house arrest.

In Pakistan, the military establishment has managed to civilianize its rule and transfer power on its terms several times since independence because there is no dearth of political leaders and parties who are ready to play along and follow the military establishment’s rules of the game in each episode of transition from military to civilian rule.

It was such pragmatic individuals and political leaders who facilitated Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s democratization experiment in the 1960s by accepting his new constitution and participating in his National Assembly elections in 1962 and 1965. These pragmatic politicians were there again to help Gen Ziaul Haq in his military-to-civilian transfer in 1985, accepting his amendments made to the 1973 Constitution and participating in his version of democracy.

Pakistan has thus groomed a whole lot of pragmatists who are willing to be coopted in and serve in any government setup, be it a military, caretaker or quasi-military one. This time round, the pragmatic politicians formed the PML-QA and the National Alliance to contest the Oct 10 election.

But it is one thing for politicians to go along with the military establishment from the very beginning, and quite another for them to get themselves elected from the constituency of an anti-establishment party and then afterwards sneak into the cabinet by joining hands with the establishment party, as the PPP forward bloc has done. It is ironic that the latter should choose to call themselves “patriots” naming the breakaway PPP faction as Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians Patriots (PPPPP). It would have been more appropriate to call themselves the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians Pragmatists.

But the five Ps are not the only ones in the present coalition government who have switched loyalties. The current coalition government is basically made up of politicians who once belonged to the PML-N or the PPP but who have now changed loyalties and formed their own breakaway factions. Some had done so much earlier before the Oct 10 election and some later after the election.

The earliest to change loyalties in favour of the present establishment were a whole chunk of members from the deposed PML- N who broke away to form the PML-Q, now the major partner in the coalition. One former PML-N member, Ejazul Haq, formed the PML- Zia faction which is also part of the coalition.

Also defecting to the establishment before the election was the Aftab Sherpao group which broke away from the PPP to form PPP- Sherpao. Before that, former prominent PPP member Farooq Leghari and now head of the pro-establishment National Alliance had already formed his Millat Party which is the key component of the Alliance.

After the election, more politicians joined the establishment bandwagon, most prominent among them being Rawalpindi’s Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, former PML-N member who fought the election as an independent but joined the PML-Q after. Then came Maulana Azam Tariq of the banned Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

The most spectacular loyalty switch was the last-minute induction of the 10 PPP forward bloc members into the establishment. Their timing was immaculate as they made themselves the crucial balancing force that could tip hung national parliament either way. And now, a similar PPP forward bloc is also appearing in the Punjab Assembly.

A closer look at the coalition cabinet members will show many more faces — apart from the six forward bloc members and Aftab Sherpao — who were at one point in time or the other connected to the PPP, either directly themselves as members or their fathers had served in the PPP government.

Examples of the former include Sardar Fateh Ali Umrani (adviser to the prime minister) and Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali himself, who contested and won in the 1977 election to the Balochistan Assembly on a PPP ticket, while examples of the latter include Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, whose father Mahmud Ali Kasuri was a minister during the 1973-77 PPP government, and Information Technology and Telecommunications Minister Owais Leghari, who is the son of the former PPP leader Farooq Leghari.

Politicians formerly from the PML-N who are now coopted in the coalition government as PML-Q members include: Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, minister of information and media development; and Chaudhry Amir Hussain, speaker of the National Assembly, who was once Nawaz Sharif’s minister for law and parliamentary affairs.

Today’s civilian coalition government would not have been possible if it were not for these pragmatic politicians, whose loyalty seem to lie only to themselves and not with any political party, principles, ideology or even the military establishment for that matter. Had they all stuck to principles as Aung San Suu Kyi is doing, this latest transfer from military to civilian rule would perhaps not have been executed.

Denying Sindh of share in power: SINDHI PRESS DIGEST

By By Abbas Jalbani


KAWISH writes that the tailoring of the people’s mandate through suspension of the anti-floor-crossing law has deprived Sindh of its share in power. No representation of the province can be seen in the new setup, as the offices of prime minister, National Assembly speaker and his deputy have gone to the other provinces. It also seems unlikely that somebody from Sindh will be elected chairman of the Senate.

Giving representation at the highest echelons of power to each of the four provinces has been a tradition of the parliamentary history of Pakistan. This is the first time that this tradition has been set aside. Moreover, none of the MNAs from Sindh, inducted into the new cabinet, has been given any prominent portfolio. Sindh also stands deprived of its share in federal bureaucracy since only a few of over two dozen government departments are headed by secretaries from Sindh.

As far as the formation of the new government is concerned, it appears that the People’s Party Parliamentarians, which has emerged as the second largest party after the October election, has been denied an opportunity to form a government. Some circles believe that this is a punishment to the PPP for refusing to conciliate with the Musharraf government, and also to Sindh for rejecting the pro-government parties.

On the other hand, the inaugural session of the Sindh Assembly has been postponed in the same surprising way in which it was called earlier. The assembly session was convened by the president, though, according to the Constitution, it should have been called by the provincial governor. It is said that the assembly session was postponed to lend time to a particular group to enable it to muster support for forming a government. Under this situation, the pro-government Grand National Alliance, which lacks the required majority, seems to be heading towards forming a government in Sindh, whereas the second largest party in the PA, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, is also dreaming of grabbing the top slot of chief minister. If the largest party of Sindh, the PPP, is denied of its right of forming government in the province, it will again be an insult of the people’s mandate.

The authorities are advised not to push further the sensitive province towards the feeling of deprivation. The mandate of the people of Sindh should be respected and they should also be provided their due share in power at the federal level.

Welcoming the first premier of the country from Balochistan, Awami Awaz says that as Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali belongs to the most backward province of the country, he should not only realize that the smaller provinces have been deprived of their rights for the last 55 years, but also strive to reverse the discriminatory practice. Particularly, he should seek to resolve the intra-provincial disputes, the most crucial being the issues of water and distribution of resources. While supporting construction of the Kalabagh dam, he should keep in mind that the project may prove to be a death warrant for the agriculture of Sindh, as well as of Balochistan.

Hilal-i-Pakistan deplores the inordinate delay, on the part of mills’ owners in Sindh, in starting the sugarcane crushing season and thereby violating the government notification to begin the crushing on Nov 15. Due to the delay, the standing sugarcane crop is drying up at the water-starved fields, while the farmers are unable to sow the wheat crop on time.

Referring to the cause of the delay, the mill owners argue that they still have the last year’s sugar stock, due to the failure of the government to buy or export it. For this reason, the farmers should not suffer as it is not their fault. The growers believe that the crushing season is also being delayed to force them to sell their crop at the minimum rate.

Owing to the negative attitude of the mill owners / managements towards the growers, which includes delaying payment of sugarcane purchase, the area of sugarcane cultivation in Sindh has remarkably decreased. If this anti-farmer attitude continues, the sugarcane growers may switch over to some other crop, which can lead to the closure of the sugar mills in the province. Have the sugar mill owners ever thought about this possibility?

Sach writes that after Iraq’s compliance with the UN resolution, the US has no reason to attack it. But still the US and UK aircraft have bombarded the Middle Eastern country, killing seven citizens and injuring several others. This arrogant approach of harassing the weak may result into adverse consequences, as is evident from the history of the two World Wars. Therefore, the UN should urge the US and the UK to refrain from attacking Iraq, and the entire dispute should be peacefully settled through the international organization.

A caucus of veterans and newcomers: VIEW FROM GALLERY

By Ismail Khan


President Gen Pervez Musharraf had promised the nation that he would bring true democracy and new faces to parliament. Let it be known that he has delivered on his promise. There were indeed new faces in the NWFP Assembly on Monday. So many new faces and all looked so strikingly similar that it was difficult to distinguish who was who.

This hapless nation of 140 million has seen assemblies come and go. But this one is unique. There are a few veterans and many a novice. There are many a bearded and a few clean-shaven. Veiled women members outnumber those of the same gender who cover their heads only. There are those who have done their Wafaqul Madaris and those who have done their graduation.

Simply attired in white dress, white caps or wearing turbans, the MMA MPAs distinguish themselves from the rest. Pir Mohammed Khan, who does not sport a beard despite being an old Jamaat leader, is probably the only exception in the MMA band.

The elderly Inayatullah Khan Gandapur attired in a suit and wearing a feathered hat was the only one who stood out among the hordes of MPAs.

And the same goes for the women MPAs. There were 24 of them there including the lady from Abbottabad who won on a general seat. Covered from head-to-toe, the MMA women MPAs set themselves apart from the rest of their women colleagues. One MMA woman MPA even wore black woollen gloves to cover her hands when she walked to the podium to sign roll call.

But this is as far as a distinction can be made. Beyond this, this assembly does not appear to cause much inspiration. Consider this. An MMA member rose on a point of order, although there was none that could be made under the Rules of Business to ask the House to recommend to the federal government that the oath to members of the assemblies should be made in Arabic. This is a heavenly language, he declared. This is the language of the Quran and this is the language that would be spoken in heaven.

Alas, he genuinely felt, this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan wherein the oath could only be taken in English, Urdu and Pushto!

Not that anybody paid much attention to it. The honourable member made his point and sat down as quietly as he had risen from his seat.

Abdul Akbar Khan, the PPP MPA from Mardan, one of the recognizable faces in the present House of 124 members, and a former speaker, did try to trigger a debate on the status of the former speaker Hidayatullah Khan Chamkani, who was presiding over the session.

The PPP MPA argued that Chamkani had ceased to become the speaker in the light of a June 2001 notification and that a governor who had taken the oath under the PCO had no legal right to nominate him as the presiding officer. “The same authority that had seized my function has now relieved me,” Chamkani responded.

But Abdul Akbar is not someone to be taken lightly. A seasoned parliamentarian that he is, he stirred up a small debate on LFO. Like opposition members in the National Assembly, Abdul Akbar too, wanted to know whether the oath being administered to them was under the LFO. A true Piplian, Abdul Akbar is also taken to filibustering. Holding the black-covered original 1973 Constitution in one hand the PPP MPA threw to the floor the newly-printed and amended copy of the Constitution, saying he did not recognize the right of a dictator to change the unanimously-adopted document.

This led a few other MPAs to speak on the issue. One after the other, they rose from their seats to demand of Chamkani to give a ruling on the subject. “We will take the oath only under the 1973 Constitution,” they said. One MMA member said the religious alliance planned to take the matter to the court. “We need your ruling so that it forms the basis of our legal case,” he asked.

Deftly, Chamkani said the oath was the same as written in Article 65 of the 1973 Constitution. “You are free to go to court and challenge the LFO,” he said.

Well, it is the 1973 Constitution. But what the presiding officer did not say and nobody asked was whether it was the post-October 2000 amended 1973 Constitution

And thus the maiden session of the present assembly drew close to an end. All members rose to take the oath. Chamkani asked the members to repeat the oath after him. What however, happened turned the entire House into an amphitheatre. The presiding officer was barely audible. The members without caring to listen to him went ahead and read the oath ahead of him. “What is this?” asked a bewildered Anwar Kamal Marwat of the PML-N. “Is this a dars or an oath?”

This is the graduate assembly we all have been looking forward to. Thank you Mr President.

Gross violations of women rights: DATELINE MULTAN

By Nadeem Saeed


SOUTH Punjab has earned notoriety in recent times for gross violation of women rights and meting out rather barbaric treatment to them. The sad aspect is that the atrocities against women are mostly enforced by a “collective wisdom” of self-style village councils or panchayats.

Shameful details of Mukhtar Mai gang-rape case enforced by a one-sided panchayat in Meerwala village of Muzaffargarh district had tarnished the country’s image worldwide. Similarly, the execrable tradition of ‘wani’ hit the headlines from Mianwali. Eight girls, including an eight-month-old, were being handed over to the rival tribe as compensation along with Rs8 million to secure pardon for three men now counting their last moments in the gallows under homicide charges.

Though belated, the state took cognizance of the situation and averted further humiliation in the outside world in both the cases. The people were expecting that capital punishment to the perpetrators of Mukhtar Mai would prove deterrence to the hostilities against women. However, surfacing of the Sarwar Mai case in Mailsi tehsil immediately had hurt them further.

Accusing her of adultery, the panchayat ordered and enforced head and eyebrow shave of Sarwar Mai (40), the mother of eight. These incidents are only the tip of the iceberg which the media has highlighted.

The deplorable aspect of the Sarwar Mai case is that she was handed over to her tormentors reportedly by the union council Nazim where she had taken refuge after leaving her husband’s house. The Nazim had taken Rs4,000 as bribe for doing the ‘service’.

The government often boasts for giving women 33 per cent representation at the grassroot level of union council, tehsil council and district council under the devolution plan. At the time of unfolding the devolution plan, the National Reconstruction Bureau had claimed that the enhanced women representation on local bodies would bring a radical change in the status of women in society.

A number of NGOs were also funded through internal and external resources and officials of NRB and NGOs started claiming that the stage had been set to revolutionize women role in society. But, the local bodies of the area concerned remained indifferent to the Mukhtar Mai case, Mianwali’s wani incident and Sarwar Mai’s ordeal despite a strong presence of women councillors. None of the lady councillors tabled a resolution to condemn these incidents. Instead of checking crimes against women at the grassroot level, Jampur tehsil council and Tal Shumali union council in Rajanpur district have gone an extra mile reportedly at the behest of the powerful Leghari clan.

Four sisters of Jampur city have been missing for the last more than three months. Police investigation led to Muhammad Khan Dhandla of Tal Shumali who lived in Islamabad as the girls repeatedly contacted him over his cell phone. The stay of girls at a hotel in I-9 sector of Islamabad was also proved.

But, the dilemma for the police was that the Dhandlas were the diehard supporters of the Legharis in local politics. However, reportedly the MNA-elect Awais Leghari, produced Muhammad Khan before police who failed to establish his any role in the missing of the girls.

Family of the girls launched a protest drive and alleged that Awais Leghari was patronizing the main culprit and the police declared him innocent under his (Awais’) influence. This turned the Legharis a little bit of defensive as their image outside Choti Zareen had become at stake. But then the Jampur tehsil council and Tal Shumali union council came to the rescue of the Legharis.

The tehsil council reportedly passed a resolution that the girls did not enjoy a good reputation in the area and that they had left their home of their own accord. Therefore, the girls’ family should refrain from launching a malicious campaign against the ‘noble’ Legharis.

The Tal Shumali UC even passed a resolution that Muhammad Khan be immediately released in the case of missing girls declaring him innocent as they had left their home to live a life of their own choice.

The eldest of the missing sisters is 19-year-old while the youngest is six-year-old. This is what a critic ascribes as “a united front of feudals and police against women in south Punjab.”

* * * * * * *

A MANCHESTER-based organization ‘Sahara’, which is working against domestic violence in the Asian families against women in the UK, has joined hands with the Anjuman Huqooq-i-Niswaan of Layyah.

A few days ago, both the organizations organized a conference on ‘integrated role of civil society to end violence against women’ at Layyah. It was decided that Sahara would arrange short courses for women social workers, teachers, students and councillors in collaboration with the Manchester Open University.

* * * * * *

RECENTLY, the Bahauddin Zakariya University organized a two-day Urdu conference which, however, was a seminar rather than an interactive conference.

With a claim to promote and preserve the history, culture, language and literature of south Punjab, a mushaira was also held at the university’s Seraiki Research Centre. The centre was established in July, 2001, by Islamic Studies and Languages dean Prof Dr Anwar Ahmed who was also the moving spirit behind the Urdu conference.

Dr Anwar has a rich background in Urdu and his views on the backwardness of south Punjab and its causes are also known. But, his critics say his first love Urdu has prevailed over his sympathies with Seraikis as no Seraiki mushaira could be organized in the centre since its inception.