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DAWN - Letters; March 28, 2003

March 28, 2003


Treatment of American PoWs

PRESIDENT George W. Bush has demanded that the American prisoners of war (PoWs) be treated humanely and according to the Geneva Conventions. The last time we heard the words ‘Geneva Conventions’ was when the United States took prisoners in Afghanistan.

Those prisoners were declared ‘unlawful combatants’ and it was stated that the US would deal with them in any way it liked. Amnesty International has already declared that the US is in violation of these conventions.

President Bush is ‘angry’ over the televized images of the captured/killed US marines, but images of Iraqi soldiers and combatants surrendering or being held in captivity are being freely run on every news channel in America.

The United States violated international law by attacking Iraq without any approval from the UN. Why then is President Bush asking for respect of international conventions all of a sudden? The US is already in violation of a part of these conventions which demnad that all civilians be protected in times of war.

The US has already killed over 200 Iraqi civilians with its bombs. It is evident that the US has no regard for international laws and rules and is only driven by self-interest, but it expects its opponents to follow these laws under all circumstances.


Houston, USA


ON March 23 I watched US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld’s interview on TV in which he claimed that Iraq was violating the Geneva Conventions by humiliating American POWs and by broadcasting their images on TV.

The question is: by declaring war on Iraq without any UN approval and then bombing civilians against the rules of war, isn’t the US itself violating international law?

And if so, how can they expect the Iraqis to abide by the Geneva Conventions?




THE captured UK and US soldiers should be treated as ‘illegal combatants’ and not as POWs, and in the same way as those at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where 600 Muslims have been humiliated, shackled, gagged, tortured and blindfolded.

Since America and Britain have unilaterally flouted international law and the UN, both international law and the UN are now practically dead and have been assigned to the dustbin of history.

It is the height of hypocrisy on the part of the UK and US to call for respecting the Geneva Conventions.


Rochdale, UK

Teaching in English

THIS refers to the letter ‘English as medium of instruction’ by Mr Sulehri (March 21). Highly sentimental as we are, we forget that our country has a very substantial population whose mother tongue is not Urdu. For those who fall in this category, Urdu is as foreign a language to them as English.

I am a Pakhtoon and was deprived of learning my mother tongue in my school and college. From day one in my primary school in 1938 I started with the Urdu alphabet and numerals. English was introduced only in class five and was the medium of instruction through the university. I feel very fortunate that the zeal of false national pride had not yet poisoned the bureaucrats and Urdu had not penetrated the curriculum of sciences and mathematics at that time.

Our history is full of blunders made by our leadership. We have impeded our progress by imposing Urdu on our schools depriving the non-Urdu speaking population their right to learn their mother tongue.

Let us be honest to ourselves: Urdu is not a scientific language.

We would do far better if English became the official medium of instruction from class one in our schools and throughout the curriculums of our colleges and universities. This will benefit us all, no matter which language we speak at home and which regional culture we come from. Urdu may be the national language of Pakistan, but English is our official language.

I read, write and speak Pushto, Urdu, Arabic, Farsi, English and German. English and German are the most important languages because through these two media I became a scientist, an engineer, and an educator. My knowledge of these languages has allowed me to become a world citizen.

So, why not do something right for our nation: replace Urdu with English as a medium of instruction. The people of Pakistan may speak different languages, but they are all united as proud Pakistanis.


Rocky River, OH, USA

Corruption and govt spending

IT is a fact that the present state of recession in our economy has been brought about by the so-called democratic governments, which abused state power with help from the corrupt bureaucracy. Moreover, in the past, 40 per cent public development budget was siphoned off by unscrupulous elements. The present government should exercise strict control and eradicate institutionalized corruption in the government.

There has been a significant increase in the flow of foreign capital, foreign direct investment and remittances in the last couple of years, but new jobs are not being created. There is an urgent need to invest more in agriculture, irrigation and public sector development projects. It is hoped that the budget makers would pay proper heed to this aspect while making new budgetary allocations for the next financial year.

The government should initiate economically viable job-intensive public sector projects and adopt austerity measures in its spending. A handsome amount so saved can be diverted to economically viable job-intensive public sector projects rather than buying new cars worth Rs72 million for the Punjab ministers and giving a 100 per cent increase in the salaries of the Punjab cabinet members, along with hefty allowances.



Ombudsman’s order

THIS refers to the report entitled “Police get quashed order by ombudsman”. Corruption, incompetence and mismanagement are prevalent in society at large, including politicians and the government.

In such turbulent times Justice (R) Haziq-ul-Khairi, Sindh ombudsman, has become a symbol of the fight to provide affordable justice, particularly to those poor people who are not getting justice as a matter of right.

He has very rightly and boldly taken action regarding the illegal detention of people in police stations. Illegal detention, police torture and custodial killings are becoming more frequent and need to be looked into seriously.

The IG of police is a known hard working and dedicated officer, and a strong believer in the dignity of people. He is trying his best to improve the image of the police. I hope that he is in favour of an independent action, as suggested by the ombudsman.

The Sindh governor himself is a Karachiite and knows what hardships citizens have to endure at the hands of the police force. The carrying out of the ombudsman’s directives in this regard is a must for improving the image of the police and to provide dignity and justice to the public.



Changes in cricket team

THIS is with reference to the article by Mr Rehan Siddiqui (March 23). He points out that the PCB is again employing tried and tested old guards such as Javed Miandad, Haroon Rasheed and Rashid Latif. It is unfair criticism to say that Javed Miandad is being appointed the third time. So what? Maybe the board was wrong in removing him in the first (and the second) place.

There is no dispute that Javed Miandad is the best man to coach the Pakistan team. If he asks for more money, then why not pay him more? We have paid foreign experts a lot more for delivering a lot less.

Regarding Rashid Latif, Mr Siddiqui mentions that he is better known for his whistle blowing against his team-mates. Remember, Rashid Latif was at his peak when he quit. As far as his performance is concerned, he is the best wicketkeeper that Pakistan has ever produced. Maybe the great Wasim Bari was equally good. Already a lot of injustice has been done to this national hero. I guess it’s time we honoured him.

Any person with a good cricketing knowledge will say that there is no match between Rashid Latif and Moin Khan when it comes to wicketkeeping. Moin is a gutsy batsman, but that’s not his prime duty. We have lost crucial matches when he spilled easy catches. And dropping a good batsman can be costly, which one may not compensate with his batting. Rashid bats at number seven, and at his position an average of what he has is very good.

I don’t know much about Haroon Rasheed, but one thing is certain, he isn’t involved in any misconducts.

Lastly, Mr Siddiqui should at least give recommendations, not just criticize. I would request you to please publish articles by people who have good knowledge of cricket; Mr Siddiqui certainly lacks it.



F. C. College issue

BEING an old Formanite (of the early ‘50s) I was overjoyed to read in your esteemed newspaper of March 18 that the plan to return the F.C. College, Lahore, to its former “owners”, the Presbyterian Church, had been finalized by the Punjab government.

In this regard I consider it appropriate to reproduce below extracts from my letter on this very subject which appeared in Dawn of May 8, 1995:

“Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the F.C. College. At my request I was taken around the various buildings (departments of the college). My heartbeat increased slightly as I entered the Chemistry department with my memories going back many, many years. To my shock and dismay, the laboratories of my days were no more the same. They too had become old and were not being properly maintained. The pleasant memories, which I had lived with for decades, were shattered. The auditorium of the Physics department which once was the pride of the college was in a shambles....

“I left the premises as a very sad man.

“But then hope springs eternal in human breast. Maybe, one of these days the concerned authorities of the education department will think afresh and hand back the F. C. College and other similar institutions to their former guardians. If this comes to pass, it would be a great boon to the future generations of our country.”

I am glad the hope I had expressed in 1995 has at last taken a concrete shape, thanks to the vision of the present government. I have no doubt the former “owners” of this great institution will make it regain its pristine heights of pre-nationalization days.



House jobs & govt hospitals

IT has been noticed that some government hospitals in Lahore, such as the Services Hospital and Jinnah Hospital, do not entertain graduates from private colleges for house-jobs, giving the plea that their rules do not permit them to do so.

On the other hand such graduates (i.e. from Hamdard College of Medicine and Dentistry and Baqai Medical College which are recognized by the PMDC) are not only serving in prestigious institutes like the Aga Khan University Hospital, Mayo Hospital, the JPMC and the LNH, but have also joined many hospitals abroad.

What the above-mentioned hospitals do not realize is that the students who were refused house-jobs are not only recognized and registered by the PMDC but also by WHO, ECFMG, etc. Will the health ministry look into this problem and remove the injustice?



Safety of nuclear assets

THIS refers to the letter captioned “Safety of nuclear assets” (March 20) by Mr Hassan Mahmood. I completely agree with him and warn our generals and politicians to correct our direction, otherwise soon we will face the same situation as Iraq is facing these days.

Our generals should understand that the time to increase spending on defence has gone. Also, they should stop punishing the people who voice dissent, as mentioned by Mr Cowasjee in his recent column.

We should improve our school system, curb corruption in the judiciary and the police, and stop the intelligence agencies from meddling in public matters.


Toronto, Canada

Burdening the people

EVER since the present regime has taken over the charge of governance, the people have been suffering more and more from the rising cost of life.

It appears that Wapda, the PTCL and the Sui gas management are in competition with one another how best to fleece the people.

This month the Sui gas management has surpassed all the others. Its gas bills for the present month are seven to eight times the previous ones.

Already, a great number of our people are living below the poverty line. Every now and then some people commit suicide because of poverty while some others are forced to sell their kidneys to maintain their lives.

The government has increased the salaries of all its ministers, advisers and members of parliament many times over, and has provided them with free electricity, telephone and gas, whereas the poor people have not yet received anything except a promise for a relief package.

In such a situation the poor get a hard blow in the form of excessive gas bills.

The opposition, too, has let down the people by not raising its voice in parliament for giving relief to them.

I appeal to the government that if it has no relief package for the people, it should stop making their lives more miserable by allowing excessive increases in the utility bills.



Education for survival

ALTHOUGH over half a century has passed since Pakistan came into being, we are still facing many crises and our national performance remains negligible.

The reason for this sorry state of affairs is that we have a very low literacy rate. Two-thirds of our people are unable to read or write. Moreover, the rank and file among the educated do not possess quality education.

Unless we give prime importance to education, our survival as a nation looks doubtful. Let us declare an emergency on the education front to make up for the lost years, as well as to catch up with the world.



Pakistan Day

KINDLY refer to my article, “The Genesis of Pakistan Day”, published on page III of Dawn supplement of March 23. The last para in column two should have read as under:

After passing the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940, the Quaid announced that we should celebrate April 19, 1940, as “Muslim Self-determination and Muslim Independence Day”, but later on March 1, 1940, he declared in Delhi that March 23 may be celebrated as “Pakistan Day” throughout India.



Tobacco deaths

A FEW days ago the only son of my friend died in the prime of his youth, leaving a young wife, two small children and other members of the family to mourn.

This young man made a wrong adult choice to smoke cigarettes, attracted by flashy ads which cost him his life. This is just another feather in the cap of the tobacco industry.



Kashmir first or economic ties?

THIS is with reference to Mr Kuldip Nayar’s article titled ‘Kashmir or economic ties?’ (March 13).

The learned writer referred to President Gen Musharraf’s remarks expressed in a New Delhi TV channel talk that no Pakistan ruler could survive if he brushed aside the half-century-old Kashmir dispute and began mending relations with India in other areas such as trade.

The writer thinks that Pakistan and India had regular trade relations before 1965 and even in agreements like Tashkent (1966) and Simla (1972), “resumption of trade” was mentioned in the preamble to the documents. In his view if we were to wait for a settlement in Kashmir, it would endlessly delay any chances of trade.

The writer thinks that the condition that Kashmir should be settled first “has the imprint of Khaki,” and the civilian regimes of Nawaz Sharif and others had agreed to normalize trade and other ties. He thinks that the Kashmir issue with many dimensions will take time and till “discussions throw up a solution,” the people on both sides will continue to suffer.

Confining myself to only these aspects of the India-Pakistan stalemate, leaving aside, because of lack of space, comments on his perception of the situation within the Kashmir valley, I would like to state that President Musharraf’s statement is realistic and truthful and reflects the feelings of every Pakistani, whether in Khaki or out of it.

Mr Nayar’s advice about trade is aired in a highly charged atmosphere where we are at an almost undeclared a state of war, with borders sealed, diplomatic relations and trade routes severed. The writer’s hopes, however, eminently laudable seem out of tune with events.

The pre-requisite of trade and economic ties requires an atmosphere of trust and confidence which has been hostage to the Kashmir issue for these 55 years. That is why President Musharraf calls it the core issue. His visit to Agra and almost beseeching an understanding and an agreement on issues went abegging. His gesture of openly walking up to Mr A. B. Vajpayee at the Saarc conference later and shaking hands with him was no play-acting.

We also have pleasant memories of Mr Vajpayee’s historic visit to Lahore and Lahore Declaration which raised hopes, lamentably to be extinguished soon after by acrimony and mistrust. These events should be seen in their positive aspect and built upon. But how can new hopes and initiatives emerge if the “discussion” which the writer refers to when the BJP-led Indian government is adamant not to talk?

Should not the writer and other like-minded peace-loving Indians, who are held in high esteem in both countries, be telling their government to resume negotiations in the interests of peace and prosperity of people in this subcontinent. Trade and economic ties will follow at the proper time of course in the wake of a just and fair solution to the Kashmir issue.


President, Kashmir Action Committee Pakistan,