DAWN - Features; July 22, 2003

Published July 22, 2003

Military, mullah and mohajir

By Shamim-ur-Rahman

THE strange marriage of convenience between the military, mullah and the mohajir movement is troubling liberal political forces. They wonder as to how long the military, led by Gen Pervez Musharraf, will be able to ride the chariot of power driven by two clashing forces such as the Muttahida Majlis-i- Amal and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

Some political circles believe that Gen Musharraf, after his American visit, has decided to “tolerate” the mullahs in the NWFP and elsewhere in recognition of their “manipulated anti-Musharraf shows”, provided they don’t challenge his authority and help him in acquiring legitimacy through parliament.

The PML-Q and the MMA together can easily provide a parliamentary cover for Gen Musharraf to remain president and also pass an agreed draft of the LFO with a two-thirds majority.

The MMA was earlier saying it was ready to accept Gen Musharraf as president if he laid down his uniform. This was against the position taken by the PPP and the PML-N on the issue. Now the MMA has modified its position to suggest that even a date for the president to give up his COAS post will be acceptable, and indicated that the date too is negotiable.

Observers believe that the unexpected turn in Pakistan- Afghanistan relations, particularly some of the statements made by President Karzai, despite Gen Musharraf’s U-turn vis-a-vis Taliban, has prompted the Establishment here to activate a policy of live and let live with the MMA. Elements that were instrumental in helping the MMA to put its act together want the religious lobby to acquire a new look as a tolerant and forward-looking group. Perhaps Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s visit to India is also part of that image-building exercise. Perhaps, the Establishment needs the MMA’s support to implement what Gen Musharraf has promised President Bush at Camp David vis-a-vis Kashmir, Israel and the region.

The regime’s political expediency is evident from the fact that on the one hand it is dealing with the mullahs while at the same time it is sharing power with the MQM both at the centre and in Sindh despite the fact that the latter is opposed to Gen Musharraf’s local government system and is raising confederal slogans on provincial autonomy and opposing the Greater Thal Canal Project.

Some analysts are of the view that once the regime gets the MMA’s support on the LFO, it will no longer need the MQM, which they say will be dumped at the centre as well as in Sindh. But given the MMA’s reluctance to be openly identified with the general’s regime, it is hard to conceive that he would show the door to the MQM so soon.

It is strange that Gen Musharraf, who wishes to be described as a liberal, has allowed the MMA to form the government in the NWFP but made every effort to deny that right to the PPP in Sindh. The MMA is also part of the PML-Q led coalition in Balochistan, and, of course, Prof Ghafoor Ahmad won his Senate seat on the strength of PML-Q votes.

Choudhry Shujaat Hussain has always been calling publicly for an alliance with the MMA. These overtures have never been publicly rejected by the MMA, and newspaper reports had even given the names of prospective MMA ministers. This was denied by the MMA.

One tends to agree with those who believe that the MMA is the product of the Establishment. Otherwise, why was the Shariat bill presented in the NWFP assembly when a similar act already existed? Why did the governor sign it if at all it was considered to be an attempt at Talibanization? He could have sent it back to the assembly for reconsideration. Was it only to show the US that there were extreme pressures on Gen Musharraf?

It cannot be denied that the agencies delivered Karachi to the Jamaat when they forced Maulana Noorani to support the main JI candidate against the PPP candidate. In five towns, Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani’s candidates were contesting jointly with the PPP on joint tickets, MMA candidates were given a free hand during the election while the main opposition PPP was totally blocked, despite being a secular party.

Now the question is as to what could happen to the military- MQM axis. Will they still be a part of the governing coalition when the regime succeeds in enticing the MMA? Will the PPP be allowed to form a government in Sindh? Perhaps not if the radicals in the party remain in control.

Opposition circles believe that as the provincial government is crumbling from within, the only way out is a military overseer as governor, as predicted by Pir Pagara.

Afghan invaders and Waris Shah

THE sectarian and religious prejudices of Aurangzeb had played a major part in the destabilization of the subcontinent and Kabul which was then part of the Delhi empire. The insights of the Mughal dynasty and the failure of the economic structure of the state were also responsible for the deterioration which ultimately led to its complete collapse. But one of the other major factors was the role of the Afghan invaders, including Nadir Shah, Ahmad Shah Abdali and his two successors. The invaders were called Turks and the great Punjabi poet Waris Shah depicts the social conditions of the era:

Waris kurri na pind vich rahee kai, fojan Hind noon Turk nein chahrrian nay.

Waris Shah was born in the most troublesome period after the death of Aurangzeb and Shah Alam and it was the Punjab which suffered the most. First come Nadir Shah with the lame excuse that Islam was no more safe in India and he wanted to strengthen the Muslim rulers of Delhi who were getting weak against the Sikhs and the Marhattas.

The hatred against the Afghan invaders had reached an extent that Waris Shah was obliged to say:

Wang Kabuli kuttian gird hoyan dow dow alalhisab laga gayyan.

A Persian poet, Muhammad Bukhsh Aashob, laments the destruction of the city of Lahore:

Za bedad-i-Afghan kiran ta kiran,

Azan shehr bar shud bagardoon fughan.

Hazar az chunan dushmani purstaiz,

Aman al-aman az chunan rustkhez.

Waris Shah, though engaged in teaching and leading prayers in the mosque of Malka Haans in Deepalpur tehsil, was a distant witness to the oppression committed by Nadir Shah in Delhi and later in southern Punjab and Sindh. Waris Shah had referred to the massacre in Delhi.

Qizalbash, jallad, aswar khooni, nikal dorria Urd bazar vichon.

Nadir Shah’s invasion was followed by Ahmad Shah Abdali, a Multan-born warlord whose lust for loot was limitless. In that time, peaceful people like Waris Shah resisted him. He joined the force of Lahore governor Shahnawaz Khan, a debauch who had keeps, including a Sikh and Hindu women. He had murdered a religious emissary of Ahmad Shah and thus invited the wrath of the Afghan tyrant.

As Shahnawaz had killed the emissary, it was expected that an all-out war was inevitable between Lahore and the Afghans. Waris Shah had also joined the Mughal forces as a volunteer. But after insignificant clashes on the Booti Bund side in which Waris Shah was also involved, governor Shahnawaz left the city at the mercy of Afghans who plundered it for a month.

Waris Shah calls the Afghans ‘thieves’.

The Delhi rulers had refused to extend military support to Shahnawaz who was not in the good books of prime minister Qamruddin at Delhi. The reason was a family feud. Shahnawaz had defeated his elder brother Yahya Khan who was the son-in-law of Qamruddin. As was the practice of the Afghan invaders, Abdali and his forces mercilessly plundered the city and the citizens at large. Waris Shah narrates the conditions prevailing in the Punjab capital:

Tay, tor Lahore day vaikh kay ji daur-i-zameen tey sakht bhoochal hoya,

Waris Shah jiven jal bahj mahi, tivain shehr Lahore da haal hoya.

Being a nationalist, Waris was very happy when Ahmad Shah Abdali was defeated by the Mughal forces near Delhi and he had to retreat to Kabul through Lahore, where he was never welcomed. It was only Shah Waliullah, a renowned religious intellectual of Delhi, who had invited Ahmad Shah to strengthen the Delhi Mughal rulers at whose success Waris Shah was tremendously happy:

Yey, ya Rab toon mehrban hoyon, tadey pher Choghatian da raj hoya,

Toen diti shikast Qandharian noon, Dilli walian day sir taj hoya.

Waris Shah Qandhari khidar naheen, akheen vaikh, bazi hun harda ee.

In Waris Shah’s view, the whole of the Punjab was devastated by the Afghans and in their absence the Sikhs ruled supreme. It was the turn of the Sikhs marauders.—STM

Rain: boon becomes bane

KAWISH this week takes up the issue of rain-related problems and writes that the rains have exposed the poor performance of the civic agencies as well as the irrigation department of Sindh. It points out that with the rainfall, civic life has become almost paralyzed in Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Larkana and other cities/towns as the civic agencies have failed to drain out rain water. Collapse of the sewerage system has further aggravated the situation and as a result rain and gutter water has invaded many localities.

On the other hand, the paper adds, there are reports of canal breaches causing inundation of villages and crops, and it is feared that if the water level rises in the Indus, the Bhanote and Qadirpur flood protective embankments may be washed away. Similarly, the increase of flow in Nain Gaj has played havoc with the Kachho area. And all this is happening with a little rainfall.

Kawish says that the situation has not arisen overnight. It is the failure of the department that did not take precautionary steps in advance.

The daily concludes that what has happened cannot be undone, but the irrigation department and the civic agencies should now take measures to resolve rain-related problems.

Sach focuses on another aspect of the situation: power breakdown. It says that announced and unannounced loadshedding had already become a routine affair from Karachi to Kashmor with the advent of summer, and after the rains, the intensity of the problem has become a nightmare. The power crisis is also leading to suspension of water supply and sewerage disposal operations. The situation has once again proved that the power distribution system in Sindh needs to be completely renewed.

Ibrat writes that like previous years, last year also a major part of the development funds of Sindh lapsed. A glaring example in this regard is that of the provincial education department which has returned 88 per cent of its funds. The communication and works department has also returned a considerable part of its funds and the agriculture department has not lagged behind in this respect. The paper deplores that due to the inefficiency of the provincial departments, the richest province of the country has become the second most backward province.

Ibrat says that the Sindh cabinet’s decision that the heads of departments which fail to utilize development funds will be held accountable should be strictly implemented.

Tameer-i-Sindh refers to the bomb blast in the Hyderabad Civil Hospital and says that the explosion has exposed the theory popularized by the city police that such events are the outcome of rivalries among transporters. It says that the selection of the site for the explosion suggests that it was a terrorist incident and asks the police to expose the forces behind such attacks.

The right-lane syndrome

SAHIBZADA Khalid is a pipe-smoking, blue-blooded senior bureaucrat. He is trained to keep his cool even if temperatures soar high. But when we met recently, he was furious. Not because he had run out of his tobacco stock. There was something else he was mad about - traffic. “By God, you need a danda to fix things right,” he said, gnashing his teeth in anger.

That’s how traffic has become in Peshawar, a source of high blood pressure and anxiety. If you don’t have the disease, be certain, you will get it once you dare drive on the roads of Peshawar. The situation, I am sure, would not be any different in other cities of the country. This is a nation that has been afflicted with what someone once described as the ‘right-lane syndrome’.

Everything moves in the right lane, be it slow-moving trucks, rickety rickshaws, mule carts following their own shadows or bullet-speed minibuses. Every single vehicle moves in the right lane. Nobody wants to take the middle or the left lane. Everyone of us is in a hurry as if catching a flight. The bus stops or so- called bus bays have lost their meaning. Traffic policemen, owing to the shortage of manpower, are unable to enforce the relevant rules.

One has over the years done enough stories and received enough press releases on the need for or measures to improve the traffic system, but nothing has changed. Governments have come and gone. Governors, chief ministers, martial law administrators - all pledging to put traffic right. All have gone. What remains is our crazy traffic system.

A decade ago, when there were 114 traffic policemen and 80 traffic points to manage, things were as bad as they are now. Today with twice the number of policemen (205) looking after the same number of traffic points. You can’t help but smile when chief ministers and governors convene high level meetings to discuss plans to improve traffic in Peshawar city.

Over 200,000 vehicles ply in Peshawar, both private and commercial. There are over 7,000 illegal auto-rickshaws that move around causing much of the traffic mess without any route authorization sharing the roads with an equal number of registered three-wheelers. The thousands of mini-buses, half of which are without proper route permits, are no less a nuisance.

As against this, our traffic force has 25 pocket phones or wireless sets, out of which only 20 are functional. They have 40 motor-bikes, out of which six have been reserved for VIP escort.

The concept of traffic engineering is novelty for the city’s bosses. The city district government and the city municipal and development department who own the roads that run through the length and breadth of Peshawar do not invest a dime in crafting better road management.

Though traffic policemen do stand to gain a fraction of the Rs22 million they earned last year through traffic challans, much of it goes into the kitty of the cash-strapped province. Not a single paisa goes into improving the police’s communication and transportation problems.

To make things worse, traffic has another problem. There are more chiefs here than Indians. There is the AIG Traffic and there is the SP Traffic. The arm chair intellectuals in the National Reconstruction Bureau have in their own wisdom granted traffic management to the capital city police chief, as if he does not already have enough on his plate.

No wonder then that with this triumvirate, you end up having the traffic disorder that we see in Peshawar. Worse still is the lack of coordination in agencies and department involved with traffic management, including the licence-issuing authority and the department which issues route permits.

A government that is driven by expediency and lacks the resolve to make tough decisions is at the heart of this entire problem. Our roads can no longer take the ever-increasing traffic load. That’s a fact.

The government needs to put a ban on the registration of new auto-rickshaws, ban the illegal ones as well as the minibuses that are plying without route authorization and divert them to districts where they are needed more.

Supervision too is important. Unless there are several tiers of supervision in the traffic hierarchy, from the top down to the sector and sub-sector level, the lack of proper accountability will remain. Part of the money collected from traffic fines should go into bettering and improving the performance of the traffic police by providing them with better communication and transportation facilities.

The City District Government and CDMD should chip in with resources to repair and install traffic signals. All concerned should pool in resources to set up a traffic engineering department that should coordinate with the city district, CDMD and cantonment authorities to prepare road plans to ease traffic congestion and ensure smooth flow.

It is imperative to involve associations of auto-rickshaw and minibus drivers to bring order to the roads of Peshawar. But equally important is to educate the people to overcome the right-lane syndrome. This is where television and radio can play an important role.



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