DAWN - Letters; 24 February, 2004

Published February 24, 2004

More important than N-capability

The country is rightly concerned about the possible hazards to our essential nuclear deterrent as a result of the recent proliferation expose. Thousands of words have understandably been written about the likely exploitation of this issue by powers which have long opposed Pakistan's nuclear capability.

Very little has been said, however, about the damaging implications of the mercenary nature of the transactions for our place in the world and for the prospects of national development in important fields.

A country can survive without a nuclear deterrent. No country can, however, survive without a modicum of integrity, self-respect and national pride. This blow to our credibility has been the greatest damage to Pakistan resulting from the recent expose and this is what should be uppermost in the minds of every thinking Pakistani from the president downwards.

While Dr. A. Q. Khan has not so far publicity admitted financial wrongdoing but has spoken of "good faith", and while allegations of financial misdeeds on the part of the six detained scientists have still to be substantiated, the impression already created worldwide is about Pakistanis being up for sale, including those involved in the most sensitive of national tasks and even those who were well looked after financially by the government.

While the motivation behind the deals may have been a mix of ideology and the profit factor, the version received by the outside world is not so much of misguided acts of political or ideological support for friends and allies but a story of venality and greed.

This has been highlighted by a plethora of stories in the national press itself, inspired or not, and by statements by important government spokesmen themselves, guided apparently by the assumption that the profit motive would cause less alarm in the First World than the fear of Islamic collusion.

The US and UK governments reeling under the storm of criticism over the role of their intelligence in promoting the invasion of Iraq have hungrily pounced on the Pakistan expose as an achievement of US and British intelligence.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has been quoted as stating that "A. Q. Khan was willing to sell the technology to anybody who paid the price," hurting in the process the susceptibilities of many self-respecting Pakistanis, whether deserved or not.

While financial scandals are daily fare in the West and also in our own region (with Kuldip Nayar recently maintaining that "India can neither live with corruption nor without it"), the recent nuclear imbroglio with its financial overtones has overshadowed, to our detriment, the transgressions by others, including the nuclear deals by European middle-men.

If the allegations of financial venality on the part of those involved in the most sensitive and responsible of national tasks are correct, then much more is at stake than our nuclear programme.

The government (and civil society) must take proactive steps to restructure our social priorities, to revamp our sense of values, to clampdown on rising levels of conspicuous consumption, to contain the role and influence of unaccounted wealth and to make an example not only of the corrupt but of those who live beyond their legitimate means with the severity which China does.

The government has also to restructure its system of integrity and character assessment and to give highest priority to integrity in the performance evolution of its officials. In this era of democracy, the electorate must gradually be trained to judge integrity in candidates for office.



Cooperative housing societies

The role of cooperative housing societies is again in focus in the context of the housing problem. Despite statements by ministers that no effort will be spared to provide shelter to every citizen which is his basic right, it is doubtful whether such claims can ever by realized through mushroom growth of cooperative housing societies, whose performance has not been encouraging.

Rather than enabling a citizen of average means to own a shelter, these societies in collusion with other agencies/private parties indulge in land speculation and encourage the business of plots.

Whether this business or investment can be considered productive from the national point of view is for our economists to decide. What is certain is that it has rendered the prices of plots beyond the capacity of a buyer of limited means.

Files are openly traded, which is the worst type of speculation because the societies are not even in possession of land, nor are any allotment letters issued. Surely, such activities, though benefiting the already rich speculators/brokers are not going to solve the housing problem of the vast majority of people.

The government should take immediate note of this state of affairs and activate the departments/ agencies concerned to play their role effectively so that malpractices can be curbed.

The following suggestions are made for consideration by the government:

1. Monitoring and control by the cooperatives department should be made more effective by bringing about necessary amendments to the relevant laws, rules and regulations. Participatory role of other related government departments/ agencies may be introduced.

2. Managing committees should be elected only for one term of two years, and no office-bearer should be allowed to hold office for the second term. This will eliminate perpetuation of interest which is the main cause of corruption.

3. The cooperatives department should ensure that members of the managing committees do not obtain any pecuniary benefit or special privilege, direct or indirect, from society.

4. Formation of new societies or extension of existing ones should be absolutely controlled. Submission of financial plan, estimated area to be acquired, number of plots, residential and others, details of facilities and period of completion should be a prerequisite for approval.

5. There should be some control on the sale and transfer of plots to protect the interest of genuine buyers.

6. The role of a cooperative housing society should not remain limited to purchase of land and development of plots. Rather, it should effectively participate in the construction of houses for its members. For this purpose, finances can be arranged from loan-giving agencies at competitive rates.

7. There is a need to develop coordination between cooperative housing societies and other agencies like the city development authorities, the National Housing Authority, the town planning department and private groups of builders to make an integrated effort to achieve the goals of the national housing policy.



Saying 'no' to polythene bags

It is a common knowledge that the use of polythene bags is good neither for us nor for our environment. Used polythene bags, if thrown into nullahs, obstruct the drainage system, and if these bags are buried, they render the soil infertile.

Of all polythene bags the black ones are most harmful and contain a high number of carcinogenic agents. The fact is that we cannot get rid of a polythene bag unless and until it is burnt away completely.

The government has been trying to create awareness among the public about the harmful effects of polythene bags, but it has failed to achieve the desired results so far.

Why? The answer is simple: while the government is trying to create awareness about the harmful effects of polythene bags, it has not yet banned their production.

Now it is up to every individual to decide for or against the use of polythene bags. We can bring about a major change in this regard by saying no to the use of polythene bags at every level. First of all, we should refuse to buy anything packed in a polythene bag.

Secondly, every individual should ask his shopkeeper to put all his belongings in a paper bag. Thirdly, we should revive our old habit of carrying a bag made of a piece of cloth or a basket made of straw whenever we go out for shopping.

This type of change in our attitude will definitely help in discontinuing the use of polythene bags.



Wasim's reminder to Indians

Wasim Akram did well by both reminding the Indians that the Pakistan cricketers had toured India in 1999 in spite of the threats by Hindu extremist Bal Thackeray, and by advising the Indian government to rely on the assurances given by the Pakistan government and the PCB vis-a-vis security for the players. He also advised the Indian government to let the tour go ahead as scheduled.

Mr Akram should have also reminded the Indians that cricket fans on both sides of the border love to watch all contests between the two sides for the simple reason that they bring out the best in the two sides.

It was during the 1999 tour of India, under the captaincy of Wasim Akram, that Anil Kumble performed extraordinarily by taking 10 wickets in a Test innings at Delhi and became the first Indian to do so.

Wasim Akram could have denied Kumble the record by manoeuvring a run-out or two. Instead, he asked the boys to strive for as many runs as possible. The whole Pakistan team applauded Kumble.

One is concerned at Rashid Lateef's declaration that he would not be available during the forthcoming Indian tour of Pakistan. He is our best wicketkeeper and should, therefore, keep the wicket as long as he is fit.

Moin Khan can be behind the wicket when Rashid is not fit. One feels that Pakistan Cricket Board chief Shaharyar Mohammed Khan should draft Rashid into the playing eleven against the Indians. In recent outings, Moin did play some good innings but did not prove himself to be Rashid's equal behind the wicket.



'Help ambulances move freely'

I fully endorse Mr Nusrat Nasarullah's views in his write-up "Help ambulances move freely" (Dawn, February 8). Unfortunately most of the drivers of public transport are not aware of the so-called "right of way". To them ambulances are not so important.

Traffic congestion on Karachi's Rafiqui Shaheed Road requires immediate attention of the relevant departments. Instead of making the road one-way, the authorities should widen it by acquiring land on both sides of the road.

The service road along the Regent Plaza Hotel annexe may included in the main road. Since the Sindh Medical College Hostel, the NICH and the JPMC belong to the government, it will not be difficult for the authorities to reclaim some of the lands of these institutions for this purpose.

On the other side of the road, all unauthorized shops, vendors, tea-stalls (opposite the JPMC and the NICH) should be removed and relocated on the street behind Askari 3.

The next are the PTA regional office, a branch of National Bank of Pakistan and the NICVD. They all are government-owned. After adding one more lane on both sides, this road should be declared as a "no-parking zone".

Thus, three lanes on either side without hurdles will ease off traffic congestion, and ambulances will be able to transport patients in time.



Educational ills and their cure

Though the whole body politic is suffering from diseases, education particularly is beset by serious ills. Every specialist has dissected it without diagnosing what is really ailing it.

Nobody has ever tried to take an ultrasound or an X-ray to find out the real problem. The most recent dissection is of changing the curriculum and the system of examination for classes nine and 10. It has become a laughing stock for the following reasons.

1. Before the designing and implementation of the curriculum, teachers were not consulted. It is not need-oriented.

2. The books published for the Urdu medium students are ridiculous; all scientific terms are written in Urdu script. A bold step should be taken to make it compulsory for the science students to study science in English as it is done at the intermediate level.

3. Teachers are not trained in teaching the students to clear their concepts; they are still teaching in the old style, asking students to stand up and read a topic and learn questions by heart. They never bother to deliver lectures in detail and try to clear the concepts.

4. Books are not carefully revised. There are a lot of mistakes, especially in the textbook of mathematics of class 10. A number of statements of questions are wrong.

5. Last year, when the new courses were to be introduced, the textbooks were made available at the end of May, 10 days before the summer holidays. Then the syllabus outline was not provided. Teachers and students still do not know what to do with the books.

6. When the new academic year started and textbooks were not available, handbooks of the same books were available in the market. It means the authorities and handbook publishers were hand in glove with each other.

7. To make matters worse, when teachers were asked to appear in the refresher courses, they went on a strike. Some of them attended the courses half-heartedly and some others made lame excuses. According to my knowledge, teachers are also paid for refresher courses.

8. The same practice was repeated this year but the style was different. Last year the education department decided to teach five subjects (chemistry, biology/computer, half English, half Urdu and Islamiat) in class nine and (physics, maths, Pakistan Studies, half English and half Urdu) in class 10.

As chemistry, physics, biology have two parts each, in 2003 they decided to teach the first part of each book in class 9 and the second part in class 10, just when the new academic year started. But again before the summer vacation they annulled the decision and revised the previous one. Thus, they wasted three months of the students. It was a total humiliation and disaster.

Who is benefiting from this type of education? Two groups: publishers and teachers. How? publishers are printing helping material with the help of teachers and the teachers are taking more tuitions than ever.

They can write books for publishers but cannot write the same things for the students on the black board. An average teacher charges Rs600 to 700 from matric students and Rs600 per subject from inter students.

Publishing helping books is not immoral, but it is immoral to publish them and also take tuition by neglecting the students in schools and colleges. This has increased the cost of education at a time when 45 per cent people live below the poverty line and the daily wage of a labourer is Rs140 rupees in the big cities. How is it possible for the common man to pay high tuition fees and other expenses? Still the government claims to provide free education.



Industrial area roads

One of the basic requirements for industrial development is a good road infrastructure. However, the Korangi Industrial Area, Karachi, depicts a totally different picture. Visit sector 15 of the area, adjacent to the National Oil Refinery, and you will see that a cyclist can travel faster than the motor vehicles on most of the roads.

There are countless potholes in the roads, very difficult for motorists to drive. Besides, sewage overflowing from chocked gutters and water coming out of some of the industries' main gates, take you to another world; one feels that the roads of a village must be better than the roads in this sector of the Korangi Industrial Area.

When our foreign principals visit us, we just keep our mouths shut due to shame. They just smile and make no comments. The government often declares that it is making efforts to provide excellent opportunities for foreign investment, but the ground realities expose the hollowness of this claim. We request the relevant authorities to have pity on us and do the needful. Just giving statements will not solve any problems.



Khalid Ishaque

Mr Khalid Ishaque, who died in Karachi on February 7, was a honest and learned person and had no craving for wealth.

I happened to see him in the first week of January 1995 to hand over my case. He refused to take the brief, saying that he was a cardiac patient and if something happened to him, his juniors would not be able to get me justice. Instead he suggested the name of another lawyer.

It seemed strange to me. Many lawyers would probably have accepted the case and taken the money.



Indian visa

In view of the growing friendship between Pakistan and India, it would be nice to visit each other's country. In this context it is requested that there should be a separate counter for ladies and elderly people, visa be issued the same day, visa be given for eight to 10 places in India, and ladies and the elderly be exempt from police reporting and registration.

Simple procedures will certainly give pleasure to visit and leave happy memories of ease and comfort. It will also be appreciated if all the conditions of the issuance of visas are published for the convenience of applicants.



Overloaded buses

The coaches plying between Mirpurkhas and Naukot are generally overloaded. Each coach carries three times the load of passengers than its capacity. Even the rooftops of these coaches are full of passengers. In the recent past a number of accidents have taken place owing to this dangerous practice.

There is a common belief that transporters have formed a cartel and use only 50 per cent of the available vehicles on a day and the rest on the alternate day. This they are doing in collaboration with the relevant authorities. In this way they manage to transport three times the passengers in a single trip at the cost of the passengers' comfort.

The situation demands immediate attention of the higher authorities to end the plight of the commuters by increasing the number of vehicles.


Tando Jan Mohammad

Underage driving

While I am happy that the traffic DIG, Karachi, has taken note of reports appearing in Dawn about the problem of underage driving and proceeded to order a drive against this menace, much more needs to be done.

One way to catch these young men and women is to station traffic policemen near some of the elite schools in Clifton and Defence. The number of such drivers is increasing and this problem needs to be nipped in the bud.

Another time when these drivers are out on the road is Sunday morning and afternoon. These teenagers and their parents need to be told of the dangers they pose to other motorists.





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