Non-Nato ally status

Reference the letter by Mr Aziz Bari (March 31). He says that Pakistan has received major non-Nato ally status because this suits America's interests. He also wants an "assurance" from the US that this status will not "subvert Pakistan's sovereignty".

Many people like Mr Bari assert that the move has been made because it "suits America's interests". Does he expect America to make a move that does not suit its interests?

Alliances are made, and nations - big and small, weak and powerful - come closer because that serves their common interests. You reject an alliance if it does not suit your interest, even if it serves others' interests; or you may accept an alliance because it serves your interests as much as the interests of other members. To reject non-Nato status simply because it serves America's interests is absurd.

When Nato came into being after World War II, countries as small as Belgium and Holland became allied with such big countries as Canada, besides such relatively powerful nations as Britain and France. Nato served their common interest - to deter the Soviet Union. Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg did not have their sovereignty "subverted" because America was its member.

Does non-Nato status serve Pakistan's interests? Relatively speaking, yes. There are no ideal solutions to the problems of any state in this world. This status suits Pakistan because only a fool will take on America in this unipolar world.

Let us note that countries like Russia and China are kowtowing to America, and India is dying to be on America's right side. Did not Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh offer bases to the US in the aftermath of 9/11? Did not Pakistan pre-empt India by offering to be on America's side?

America accepted Pakistan's offer because of its common border with Afghanistan. Air and land operations against Afghanistan from India would have been inconceivable. So Pakistan and the US came closer because this served the interests of both.

What Pakistan has gained economically need not be repeated. In addition, at Camp David, the US promised another three billion dollars of economic and military package. Who else is going to give us this package - brother Brunei Daressalam? friend Germany? Russia?

Only those not knowing the ABC of geopolitics would like to reject an offer of friendship, alliance and money and arms and goodwill from the world's only superpower.



Need to shift Lahore zoo

Recently, the Lahore zoo lost a lion, and wild animals have been dying there in the past as well. The zoo was established in the early 19th century. The land for it, measuring 121 acres, was given by a horticultural garden, later called Lawrence Garden (now Jinnah Garden).

In the past, Lahore's population was mainly concentrated in the Walled City and this area was called "Village Mozang". After the flood of 1860 in the River Ravi which devastated the Shad Bagh Garden, the authorities bought this area from an Arain family of Mozang. It was outside the city at that time and the population was very small.

The population is increasing rapidly and there are large crowds to be witnessed at the zoo almost daily. This has created congestion on the roads leading to the zoo, particularly The Mall and Lawrence Road. The areas surrounding the zoo are heavily polluted with smoke containing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and other dangerous substances which not only affect the visitor, but also the animals. The animals need a larger area. An open climate is also needed for birds. But there is no fresh air for them either.

It is, therefore, suggested that the zoo should be shifted to Jallo Park or somewhere else so that animals could be saved from pollution and could have a larger area to roam about and the visitor also should have some relief. The zoo's land may be utilized by Lawrence Garden for more plantation and gardening.

Lahore has a population of about seven million. It needs more open spaces, gardens, playgrounds and plantation.



Resignations and by-elections

Many members of the national and provincial assemblies, belonging to various parties, have resigned. It appears these resignations have a political motive and background for show of power.

The election commission will hold by-elections on the vacant seats after receipt of direction from the respective speakers. The question is whether the EC is empowered to hold by-elections on seats which have fallen vacant without any valid cause or concern from the lawmakers. According to the normal practice, by-elections are held when a lawmaker either dies or is disqualified.

Elections to the national and provincial assemblies comprise an important matter. People elect a lawmaker for a specific period to represent them in the assembly. Big money, time and energy are spent on elections. So, resignations and by-elections without any valid cause need to be fully explained.

I hope that both the ruling and opposition lawmakers will sit together, have discussions on the new situation before an announcement of by-elections. A member who has resigned from the seat on his own and without any cause is ineligible for re-election or any future election. The seat should be kept vacant till the next election.

This is a serious issue and needs consideration by the election commission, lest the nation should witness resignations and by-elections at the cost of public funds throughout the tenure of the assemblies.



Construction plans

The district government system was introduced to provide facilities to the people at their doorstep. But the system seems to be falling in decay. Since the military is determined to support it and the municipal authorities are bent-upon exploiting this situation, certain corrupt practices have crept into it.

The Muzaffargarh tehsil municipal by-laws, for example, require that a house-building plan should be drawn up by a BTech or DTech holder or a person who has been practising this art for more than 10 years. There are no degree holders here, but several practitioners of 10-year standing are available who can be registered by the municipal authorities in the larger public interest according to their own laws. Previously, their work was duly recognized by the authorities.

The people of Muzaffargarh continue to draw on the services of these practitioners, but the new authorities demand that construction plans should be stamped for approval by a nominated architect, otherwise they will not be passed. That stamping costs Rs2,000 and the stamp available with some nominated individuals residing in the city or even with clerks of the municipal office. Thus, about Rs10,000 are fleeced daily from the public and divided up as a result of which nobody listens to any complaint in this regard.

The authorities are requested to save the people by ordering the local tehsil nazim to approve building plans drawn up by duly experienced draftsmen here.



Savings and senior citizens

Britain's chancellor of the exchequer has cared to provide for senior citizens of his country. For the pensioners of 70 years of age and over, an amount of £150 and for those of 80 years and over a further additional grant have been provided.

Our Finance Minister, Shaukat Aziz, is requested to consider in his next budget two human aspects of postal savings and national savings schemes - one, to help senior citizens pass their twilight years free from dependence on charity, and, two, to inculcate in the people the need for savings from their income in their prime to not only ease any financial burden in their old age but also to assist the government in national development through the use of the amount in national projects.

Most of the savings are consumed by inflation created by the government's overspending and the rest serves to cover the cost of medical treatment in the absence of medical aid in government hospitals. Charitable hospitals exist on paper only.

The minister may show similar consideration for the senior citizens and increase the rate of "special savings account" in the post-offices for people who are 70 years of age and over to 10 per cent without withholding tax, service charges, Zakat deduction and any limit/condition.

These accounts have been held for nearly two decades in spite of increases and decreases in the rates of profit.



One building control body

This refers to the news item "One building control body proposed for the entire city" (March 27).

This is a great proposal as a single building control body, if set up, will help bring to an end mismanagement and haphazard development by Karachi's 18 organizations. It is hoped that the proposed body is established soon to ensure sustainable development in the largest city of both Sindh and Pakistan.

So far, various civic agencies have created shortages of every kind, including educational institutions, health centres, transport, wholesome drinking water.

In most areas, no sewerage system exists. It is now expected that these independent organizations will be controlled through a uniform comprehensive and coordinated town and country planning law which should be enacted simultaneously at federal and provincial levels.

Though the devolution of power plan is a wonderful gift to the nation from the present government, in the process we have lost the now defunct Karachi Development Authority. This institution ought to have been retained. For the purpose of devolution, new regional offices ought to have been created in all towns of Karachi as well as in the lower tiers so that the benefits of the devolution of power could reach the entire population.



Drug use and kidney failure

This refers to a scientific breakthrough regarding the basic cause of the population decline in oriental white-backed vultures (OWBVs) in the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent. The details of this research and the financial and technical help rendered by different agencies have been published in Dawn (January 23).

As a result of a join project by the Ornithological Society of Pakistan (OSP) and the Applied Biology Department of the Bahauddin Zakariya University, field surveys and post-mortem reports indicated that the majority of causalities of OWBVs were caused as a result of kidney failure.

The chemical examination of the dead OWBVs as well as experiments conducted on healthy birds confirmed that diclofenac, a chemical commonly used for livestock, was responsible for the kidney failures. Besides this chemical, several such non-steroidal and inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) used for livestock cause severe damage to the environment.

It must be appreciated that OWBVs are very efficient scavengers in consuming the dead bodies of animals, and thus, play an important role in keeping the environment clean. It is evident that chemical diclofenac, responsible for kidney failure, was routed through OWBVs normal feeding on the dead bodies of livestock containing the traces of this chemical.

It seems possible that diclofenac and several other chemicals used for livestock or in our food as additives (preservatives, colours and flavours, etc) may also be responsible for the frequent kidney failure in human beings. As such, the need to work on preventive strategies becomes imperative to save life, as well as the expenditure incurred on kidney transplantation and dialysis.

Besides kidney failures, we are facing a number of life-threatening diseases like cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, hepatitis and AIDS, which ultimately prove fatal in many cases. Keeping in view the costly and insufficient medical facilities, it is obligatory on the part of the ministry of health, other medical departments and NGOs to concentrate on the killer diseases prevalent in our region. Several factors - air, food, water, mental and physical stresses and the lifestyle, etc - must be taken into consideration while dealing with the preventive aspects of such diseases.



Brain drain and elderly people

The government should undertake research to determine the extent of brain drain from the country in the last two decades, particularly of young students who received their basic education from elite schools. These students go abroad for graduation and post-graduation studies and their educational expenses are met by their parents who spend their life-long earnings to ensure a bright future for their children.

Most of these young Pakistanis, after completing their education, settle abroad while their old parents are left alone in Pakistan, depending on servants to look after them.

Such parents only wait anxiously for a telephone call or two from their children. In some cases the children of bureaucrats are living abroad just to look after their parents' money which is being sent in their foreign accounts. These bureaucrats do plan to join their children abroad after their retirement but are rarely welcomed by them, so they have to live in Pakistan alone to pass the remaining days of their lives.

This is also true of middle class parents whose children go abroad for study on government scholarships but then settle there and forget their parents to fend for themselves.

This trend is eroding the support old parents used to get in the old joint family system.



A threat and a nuisance

It was once said that jackals roamed the streets of Islamabad. No more. Pigs have taken over Islamabad and are to be found in all sectors of the city in the evening and at night, posing a threat and a nuisance.

The Daman-i-Koh park and the adjoining area are infested with pigs who roam freely.

Will the authorities concerned pay attention to this problem?



Textbooks and MMA

It is amazing to see how a minority can make a mountain out of a molehill. I am saddened to read that MMA leaders have been against calls to revise and update textbooks. Does the MMA have any qualified person who can come up with a better education policy?

This opposition is for the sake of opposition. Textbooks are to teach pupils not to indoctrinate them.


Leeds, UK

Tribesmen's integration

Our tribesmen are being told by the government that they must now integrate with the rest of the people.

Ours being a democratic country, let all of us agree that the long process for such an integration should start in parliament.



Hamas leader's killing

By assassinating the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Israel has invited the wrath of the Palestinians. At this critical juncture, the American-led roadmap for peace in the Middle East is at stake because America, on the one hand, wishes to establish the so-called democratic values and norms and, on the other, patronizes the aggressor Israel.

US President George Bush's silence over this matter exposes his hypocrisy and double standards.

If Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon thinks that resistance and suicide attacks will come to an end after the target-killing of the Palestinian leader, he is greatly mistaken.



Non-payment of pension

I am the widow of Mohammad Ayiaz Ali Khan (# 6248225, Signal). My family pension case was sanctioned by the A. O. CMP, Lahore Cantonment, vide memo No. G-III/F/OR/STC/80/03, dated 5/2003, and orders to the effect were sent to the postmaster, GPO, Savings, Karachi.

Over 10 months have passed but I have not yet received my pension. This has placed me in extreme financial difficulties.

Whenever the official concerned in Karachi was contacted, his simple reply would be: "Sanction not received so far." I sent two letters to CMP, Lahore Cantonment (Soldier Board), but got no reply.

Further efforts in this regard to trace out the missing pension order brought me no relief. Now I am forced to write this letter to approach the military authorities concerned so that I may get my family pension.

I appeal to the A. O. C.M.R., Lahore Cantonment, and O.I.C. S.T.C. (RW), Kohat, to take notice of this case and arrange payment of my family pension through the Karachi GPO, Savings, I. I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi, at the earliest.


w/o M. Ayiaz Ali Khan (late) No. 6248225 (Signal) H. No. 8/530, Liaquatabad No. 8, Near Ghosia Masjid, Karachi

Dress code for women

This is with reference to the report "JI demands dress code for women" (Dawn, April 2).

It is truly sad to read that the Jamaat- i-Islami women MPAs don't think about anything else except putting women in veil. They say that working and university-going women should be made to wear scarfs and college girls should be made to wear 'dupattas'.

I suggest that JI and MMA MPAs and MNAs should seek to put to an end the injustices and problems (illiteracy, honour killing, financial dependence and discrimination, etc.) that Pakistani women face, rather than focusing on trivial issues that would only lead to more discrimination against women.




This is apropos of Mr Akber D. Vazir's letter (March 28) in which he has urged the government to reintroduce daylight saving time.

It is ridiculous to say that DST was a success. It was a complete failure as people - rich and poor - were all confused all the time, and nobody knew when to eat, sleep and go to work.




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